Friday, October 14, 2011

Liam Fox on the run

As I predicted in my email newsletter this morning, Dr Liam Fox MP has resigned as defence secretary.

Though he has remained dignified in the manner of his departure, and also in his resignation letter, his friends have already appeared on radio and TV to blame the media for his demise. It's a common plaint from politicians when they are forced to leave office after a series of indiscretions. However, there would have been no press interest had there not been some very odd goings-on. Speculation about Dr Fox's sexuality played no part in media reporting, nor should it have done. The damage was caused by a series of inexplicable events which grew more puzzling by the day. Alas, Dr Fox has only himself to blame.

Lessons for all politicians.

1) Don't misbehave
2) If you do, don't lie about it
3) If you get caught, apologise and admit everything.

Our Olympic dreams are shattered

When the announcement was made that the 2012 Olympics would be held in London, we broke open the champagne. My wife, daughter and I live four miles from the Stratford site, so we were sure we'd be able to get involved. We looked forward to seeing events, and maybe volunteering to help out. It would be the greatest party ever.

My daughter worked out that she and her friends would be 15 in Olympic year, and set her heart on some kind of role, such as volunteering to help, or taking part in a ceremony at the opening or closing. As a pupil at a local school, we were sure there would be some activities. We were wrong. As a governor at two schools less than a five-minute drive from the games site, there has been no benefit at all, and no involvement of the children in the Olympic project. Furthermore, worries about child protection have meant that only over-18s can volunteer or take part in ceremonies, crushing the hopes of thousands of local children, many of whom will be outside the fence, tearfully looking in when the games are on.

Then there's the ticketing fiasco. We didn't apply for tickets, for a reason I will explain shortly. However, many of our local friends did. Hardly anyone received any tickets at all. Despite having been affected by years of construction and transport "upgrades", there's been no thought given to any gesture towards local people, other than a two-fingered one from the London 2012 organisers. Around the UK, we don't know anyone among our friends that received more than a fraction of what they applied for. No-one got near the athletics or the swimming.

We didn't apply for tickets because I decided to volunteer for the PR and media team. Though I put in my application over two years ago, I still hadn't received a date for an interview when the ticket lottery opened. I knew that as a volunteer, I'd be busy during the games, so decided not to apply at all.

My Olympic volunteer application form specified three areas: Press and Media (First preference), General PR team, (second preference), Brand protection (Third preference). Why? Because I've worked in radio and TV for over 30 years, I've been in over 3,000 media interviews, I've written several books on media skills, I'm a Chartered PR Practitioner, and I run a successful media consultancy advising major global brands. I knew there were no guarantees, but with a requirement for over 5,000 volunteers in PR and media, I thought I had a pretty good chance of selection.

I did get selected for interview, but not for the press and media team, not for the general PR team, and not for the brand protection team. I was selected for the transport team. I rang to enquire what this meant, and was told "It's either driving officials to and from venues, or it's helping to run the car parks". I meant no disrespect to cabbies and car park attendants when I said "What???" Of course, I requested a change of team. "That's not possible" I was told "You have been allocated to the team best suited to your skills, and there is no appeal". I assume "best suited to my skills" means that I can drive, or point at a car parking space while wearing a yellow vest.

We're very, very disappointed. For years, my family and I have looked forward to the Olympics coming to our part of our city. We all feel badly let down. As things stand, we'll probably go abroad and rent out our house, so at least we get something from the Olympic debacle.

It just goes to show that to get things wrong, you need a Government oficial, but to really foul things up, you need an Olympic committee. I've lost interest in London 2012. Roll on 2013.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Speechwatch: David Cameron, Conservative Party Conference 2011

David Cameron was 25 minutes late starting, giving rise to speculation that he was doing a last-minute rewrite. He added in a "joke" about "catgate", which fell flat, like all politicians attempting humour.

He seemed confused about whether it's a Conservative Government or a Coalition Government, and used the terms randomly. In some sections he seemed to be positioning the Conservatives as more socialist that Labour. He called them the "part of the NHS" which I'm sure raised a few eyebrows nationally.

His regular speech patterns were in evidence "Let me say this.." "I'd like to say.." They weren't in the text of the speech, so are clearly part of his delivery style. He didn't over-excite the audience, and it was hardly his best speech. It was fairly subdued, possibly to match the national mood. He looked and sounded tired for much if the speech. 

I suspect that the re-writes and the media reaction overnight to the early briefings may have knocked the stuffing out of the speech to some extent. There were a few strong patches, but not as many as the audience probably hoped for. There were no major (or even minor) gaffes, but I doubt that any of the phrases will live long in the memory.

His delivery was faltering and hoarse to begin with (possibly the reason for delay). It built to a crescendo late in the speech and finished in strong. Not the greatest speech, but competent enough.

He can do much better. I'd rate it six out of ten.