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".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.
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)
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.