Whilst it is perfectly reasonable for organizations and individuals who are in the public eye to have a media office or someone who looks after their best interest vis a vis the media. The current trend of every tom dick and harry having a media publicist seems to me to be counterproductive, not least because publicists are paid by results and their success is judged by the number of favorable stories about their clients they plant in the media. Doing nothing and simply advising their clients to sit quiet does not to seem to be an option. We have seen the calamitous predicament the McCann’s have found themselves in when they willingly chose to put themselves into a publicist’s hands and thus their heads within the media tigers mouth. Even now when silence looks their best option their publicist appears to be to planting non stories all over the media, which hardly seems to be serving the best interest of this mercurial couple. The latest were stories that appeared in most of the UK press about a sighting in Bosnia of the McCann’s daughter Madeleine and a rehash of its ‘Robert Murat who did the dirty deed.’
Which brings me to my main point, over the last week there has been a glut of nasty spoilers in the media which were clearly designed to take the heat off the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, who has been under pressure to resign. It is difficult not to conclude that the fingerprints of the Metropolitan Police press office are all over the vast majority of these spoilers, although to be fair to Ian Blair, his enemies in the Conservative Party have also been at work leaking stories that are detrimental to the Commissioner. [Met detectives use credit cards in fraudulent manner etc]
Due to the hash the media has made of Commissioner Blair precarious predicament, it looks like he is safe in his job, unless he or the Home Secretary lose their nerve which seems unlikely. For the fine detail of the complaints against Commissioner Blair have been lost in the publicists squall. Perhaps it is worth reiterating why Commissioner Blair first came under media attack, it was due to his mishandling of the media in the 24 hours after the shooting of Jean De Menezes, who was shot dead by Metropolitan Police officers whilst a passenger on the London Underground. The unfortunate Mr De Menezes had been mistaken for a suicide bomber by a Security Force surveillance squad when he left his home to go to work.
In stead of coming clean as soon as he heard the news of this dreadful tragedy, Ian Blair and his media advisors attempted manipulate the situation in the Metropolitan police’s favor, or at the very least carry out a damage limitation exercise. First they stalled, then they denied and then they lied. Even when it came to the recent court case in which the Met was found guilty of endangering the public under health and safety legislation. Mr Blair’s media gofers were still trying to manipulate the evidence by issuing a photo to the court which made the victim De Menezes look far more darker skinned than he actually was, the implication being he could easily have been mistaken for a muslim terrorist. Which makes one wonder if institutional racism has been eradicated from the Met..
Ian Blair has by all accounts been a progressive Commissioner and there is no doubt that the position he holds is a very hot seat indeed. Thus at times when he makes a mistake he should be given a little slack, especially if he has learnt from his mistake and put systems in place which will ensure it is not repeated. However as far as the mistakes the Commissioner made in the 24 hours after Jean De Menezes was shot dead, this does not appear to have happened. For on the 8th of November, the very day the Independent Police Complaints Commissions (IPCC)was due to issue a critical report into the role of the Commissioner after the shooting of Mr De Menezes. A day when the Commissioner should have been considering his position or throwing himself on the mercy of the general public, unnamed sources within the Metropolitan Police were phoning their friends within the UK media offering a spoiler to keep the demands for the Commissioner head off the front pages. These off the record briefings coming out of Scotland Yard claimed the Metropolitan police have new leads into the murder of Steven Lawrence, due to new forensic test now being available which would firmly put the main suspects back in the frame, charges were said to be imminent.
That the Officers who are actually looking again at Stephen Lawrence’s death are furious at these leeks and for obvious reasons, is just collateral damage as far as the met Press Office is concerned. For they had succeeded in there task of keeping the IPCC report off the front pages and in truth the clamor for Ian Blair’s resignation has now died down somewhat.
Which is a shame, for the Commissioner if he had any common decency should have resigned, not because he has been an incompetent head of the Met, the opposite is true, he is the most liberal minded senior officer to hold that position. Ian Blair should have resigned because a man had his life stolen by officers from the Metropolitan Police on the Commissioners watch; and instead of admitted this death at the earliest opportunity and taking responsibility for it, Ian Blair’s first instinct was his own survival and he allowed others to blacken De Menezes name whilst he sat quiet. Which in the long run will both discredited the Metropolitan police further and its Commissioner Ian Blair.
We should never lose sight of the fact that when our leaders behave in such a way and manipulate the media to their own advantage at our expense, what they in reality are doing is expressing their contempt for us, the general public; and that in my mind makes them dangerous.