Earlier this week, disgraced PR firm Bell Pottinger went into administration after a racism scandal and its expulsion from the industry’s professional body cost it large numbers of key clients.
The firm had a reputation for representing clients other PR firms wouldn’t touch:
It also had a number of links to one Tony Blair, ex-Prime Minister – according to Forbes, an avid fan of Bell Pottinger’s founder, Baron Bell.
In 2014, the firm bought a UK PR company, aptly named Centreground, from former Blair adviser Darren Murphy. Centreground also employed former minister in the Blair government Jacqui Smith and former Blair adviser Jonathan Powell, as well as David Hill, ‘the man Tony Blair brought in to rescue Downing St’ and “minimise the amount of rotten fruit hurled by the press at the departing premier”.
Bell Pottinger and Tony Blair also shared at least one client: Kazakh ‘strongman’ President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Blair’s company Tony Blair Associates charged the Kazakh President over £5m a year over a period of years for Blair’s advice:
Of course, Bell Pottinger were not the only PR firm to employ a cadre of blairites. Portland Communications was founded by a former Blair adviser and has links to former core Blair team members such as Alastair Campbell. The firm was accused by Unite’s Len McCluskey of being behind the 2016 attempted ‘coup’ against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and hotly denied the accusation.
In fact, former Blair helpers pop up all over the PR industry. According to The New Statesman, ‘the entire British lobbying industry industry’ employs ‘paid up Blairites’. Industry magazine PR Week seems to agree.
Which probably speaks volumes about the reason that most Labour members these days, apart from a few mystifying blairites, despise Blair and what his term in office represented – and why Corbyn’s authenticity is a gale of fresh air blowing through British politics.
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