EARL’S COURT — Not sure how I missed this one. But The Independent has been running a investigative series on lobbyists. And they’ve chosen one of the biggest and most respected firms to ‘expose’.
In summary, some journalists pretended to be wealthy potential clients from a large foreign country and they recorded the communications professionals bragging about things they shouldn’t have been bragging about.
It’s pretty white-knuckle stuff. It doesn’t look good in print.
You can easily see where it comes from on both sides.
NEWSPAPERS – Have been the centre of attention from politicians and communications professionals for months over phone hacking and other unsavoury practices. They probably feel betrayed. Some columnists are already revelling in the chance to someone else “dirty” and “seedy”.
LOBBYISTS – See themselves as great facilitators, bringing people and politicians together. And helping the democratic process. They are well paid and unregulated. But perform and important service.
The impact that journalists and a story like this can have can be frightening. (Although few would argue that journalists themselves can coordinate and wielded it with any precision.)
Furthermore, yes, the lobbyists in question look pretty silly, and their contacts are knocking each other over to get out of their way. And even Buckingham Palace has launched a stinging (oh!) rebuke. But what business conversation wouldn’t look silly on paper? Would the Boardroom and kitchen discussions of any average Briton not be surprising and alarming to many people who read them?
It makes me think of the amateur sting operations in secondary school that caught Harris admitting he’s stolen someone’s can of Coke.
However the real sport in this story may be elsewhere.
It’s interesting to see some of the Dons of the communication agency businesses lining up to betray each other.
It’s mild at the moment, questioning the accuracy of the other CEO. Filing toothless complaints with gummy bodies. Or suggesting that exaggeration is not healthy. But some of these fellows are pretty tough. The backroom brawls of the past — though generally unreported — are legendary. When communication bosses take each other on, it can get messy.
I recommend standing back. And maybe getting some popcorn.