Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is all news good news?

Everyone wants good press, but what if you can't get it very often? Many people feel that critical coverage can be better than being completely ignored by the media. After all whilst I'm fascinated by the Green New Deal I don't expect wall to wall coverage of it... although that would be nice.

So it was with interest today that I opened up the Guardian and saw this little piece, tucked away in Hugh Muir's diary;

Consider the plight of poor Caroline Lucas, supreme leader of the Greens, who was due to speak at the annual Stephen Lawrence memorial lecture last week at the Royal Institute of British Architects, but could not do so because Eurotunnel's little difficulty prevented her from making it back across the Channel. Into the breach stepped Quentin Tyler, her policy adviser, who read her speech on building sustainable communities. But despite admitting that he was just one day into the job, Tyler quickly departed from Lucas's given text to question what on earth his boss meant by a "toy library".

A passage praising the sustainability of Poundbury's old-fashioned housing, being built "under the watchful eye of Prince Charles", proved even more troubling for the leader's surrogate. "I have to go a bit off-message here and say I don't think that's a very good example," he declared. "What's your probation period at work?" the bemused chairwoman asked him. We did wonder.
(my links)
Now before I go on I want to make a couple of caveats. Just because it's in the press doesn't make it true, although I know Lucas was stuck in the Channel Tunnel and couldn't make the speech. Secondly Quentin Tyler is not a policy advisor or anything like it - why he's reading out Lucas' speeches I'm not sure, perhaps he was just on hand - but anyway that's an aside.

I'm sure the press office are fuming about this, but I'm just wondering how terrible a gaffe this bit of foolishness really is. Firstly it's hardly a story about corruption, right wing policies or some drastic failure. It's how a fire in a tunnel meant our new leader could not make a speech and so things did not go to plan.

As with most diary pieces it's a non-story amusingly told and nothing more, which means the Greens have had a bit of extra coverage at no great cost. In fact that's probably more coverage than if things had gone ahead as planned. Maybe this is all well and good - although I suspect Quentin will not be flavour of the month right now - which is a shame because he seems a lovely chap (although I wont be getting him to read any of my speeches in the near future).

In my lighter moments I've often toyed with the idea of a black ops press unit which plants seemingly negative stories to raise the profile of the party and whilst appearing to be gossip or things the party would rather have not happened actually endear the party to a wider public.

Like leaking a story about an MEP telling the Home Secretary to "Get Fucked" or amusing misprints in leaflets, that actually only exist in the copies sent to Private Eye. Of course that would be dishonest and so it's just a beautiful dream - but what a lovely job that would be, all day making mischief... and all completely deniable.


Noel Lynch said...

I agree with you about Quentin. He is one of our best local campaigners and organisers, and the story was quite charming. I was not aware that he was a policy advisor but he is our fundraiser. Those of you who are life members will have received a recent letter from him.

Re the Black Opps: May years ago, at a time when we received zero publicity there was a Conference organised by Miriam Kennet. One of the fringes was on 'Political Correct Hugging' Nobody turned up except a lone reporter, so Miriam organised a session for him next morning. The publicity was unbelievable! Party Office even got a call from Japanese TV! This led Peg Alexander (I think) to comment that maybe we should get publicity and do some fundraising by selling salacious stories about ourselves to The Sun:-)

Dan O'H said...

Black Ops: something like a political version of
this entirely successful trick?

I do remember a few people considering complaining about 'war on terror: the board game' as a way of getting it publicity - maybe overkill, given the number of people honestly outraged by it.

Charlie Marks said...

Seems to me like this is good publicity, no? Shows that the Greens aren't on-message New Labour clones but individuals with minds of their own.

Here's a green-op story I just thought up:

"The Green Party was could be sued for copyright infringement over their policy of a 'Green New Deal' to revive the economy with investment in renewable technologies.

"It is rumoured that a US oil company acquired has registered the phrase "Green New Deal" which is inspired by depression-era US president Roosevelt's policies for economic revival."

scott redding said...

I'd only join a black ops press unit if we had our own black ops UN helicopter.

Gary Dunion said...

Who says we don't?

Jim Jay said...

Noel: the hugging thing is really interesting - it shows how something inconsequential spun the right way can make news... as long as the banks aren't going out of business or whatever.

Dan: indeed "Colonel Smith (ret)" had his day in the sun responding to that particular "sick boardgame" - this was a trick from the punk scene in the seventies when one particualr band used to seed the local press in areas they were to play in with letters complaining that this outrageous punk band was to play and couldn't we have them banned... nice.

Charlie: that's exactly what I'm talking about!

Scott: I could push you round in a wheel barrow... would that help?

Gary: oooooh... tingles with excitement

Anonymous said...

The coverage for the Politically Correct Hugging workshop was worldwide. Some of it was mildly mocking but in some countries it was reported straight and related to the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. The overall visual impression was of smiling Greens having fun at the conference. So it wasn't just coverage, it was positive coverage.

Derek Wall said...

When do we hear from Quentin what his real title is and what he really thinks about Prince Charles?

Many of us have received his fundraising letter..

Derek Wall said...

Caroline has put out a message saying that it was all a bit slanted by the Guardian.

Quentin was on hand and others were busy and he is not her policy advisor...

Jim Jay said...

Yeah - the policy adviser thing was always rubbish dreamed up by an over enthusiastic journo... I even said so in the piece :)