Archive for March, 2012

Olympic VIPs to be shielded from seeing men in overalls!

Posted in business with tags , , , on March 16, 2012 by Tom Leatherbarrow

Fascinating conversation with a client the other day who has a number of premises from where various products are distributed around London. By all accounts, pressure is being exerted by local councils, at the behest of the Olympic Delivery Authority, for certain businesses to close for the duration of the Olympics. Closures could go as far as business premises located in Croydon.

The reason, I am told, is that there are concerns amongst our elected leaders and the International Olympic Committee that the sight and sound of lorries on their delivery rounds will ruin the whole spectacle. What’s more, certain business premises will not just be required to close for the duration of the Olympics. Closures will include the weeks leading up to the opening ceremony and also the Paralympics totalling a cumulative eight weeks.

Much work is currently being done on how to cope with this thorny issue. Extended holidays are one option as is the altering of opening times so that branches will open through the night but close during the day. Apparently, it’s alright to wake up local residents at 3am for a delivery of plastic pipe, but god forbid a member of the IOC has to set their eyes on a man in overalls!

Personally, I’m still staggered that we are paying £20 billion to watch people go for a swim and throw a spear, but I know this is an unpopular argument in many quarters so I will just shut up!

What does concern me is the impact on the UK economy during this extravaganza. Concerns have already been voiced North of the Border that London will suck in all tourist expenditure across the UK during the summer. Americans who would normally go to Scotland for a few days will instead opt to stay in London. No doubt Alex Salmond, the canniest of UK politicians, will be able to use that one to his advantage (“they took our oil and now they’ve come back for our tourists”).

I read also that Andrew Lloyd Webber is warning that the West End theatres will be decimated due to the fact that nobody in their right mind will go near London for a relaxing weekend theatre break this summer.

When we signed up for this, I don’t remember Lord Coe, or anyone else for that matter, warning us of eight week business closures. If we carry on like this, the much touted ‘Olympic Premium’ will be severely diluted by an ‘Olympic Deficit’.

Roll on September 2012!

Is the Daily Telegraph changing sides?

Posted in Media, Politics with tags , , , on March 9, 2012 by Tom Leatherbarrow

Where do you go if you want to read a stinging rebuke of this Government? Most of us would probably automatically turn to the Guardian or the Indy, but recent months have seen a torrent of invective delivered from writers at the Daily Telegraph of all places.

The last 48 hours are a classic case in point. First Ed West, journalist and social commentator with a right leaning bent, laid into Cameron comparing him to Ted Heath no less. In Tory-land there is no lower blow than this!

Apparently, Ed, who is widely regarded as a ‘one-to-watch’ up and coming political commentator, says Cameron will lose the 2015 General Election (he’s willing to put money on it) as he refuses to come up with a coherent policy on all manner of issues from immigration through to crime.

Within minutes of Ed’s rant, James Delingpole, another up and comer, laid into Dave & Co quoting the following. “The problem is that policy is being run by two public school boys who don’t know what it’s like to go to the supermarket and have to put things back on the shelves because they can’t afford it for their children’s lunchboxes. What’s worse, they don’t care either.”

As James noted, this quote doesn’t come from Vince Cable, as you might expect, but from Nadine Dorries, Tory MP for Mid-Bedfordshire.
It gets worse for Dave. Yesterday, one of the big commentator beasts, namely Peter Oborne piled in. Whilst making a number of brilliant points (the Coalition won’t last until 2015 is the key one) he comes out in support of Vince Cable and against George Osborne.

“The fact is,” he says, “Mr Cable has a reasonably worked-out and coherent grasp of political economy, whether one agrees with it or not, and Mr Osborne does not. A large number of Tories want Mr Cable out. They are very stupid.”

So what is going on? I was fortunate to chat with Mike Foster, former Labour MP for Worcester last night and his feeling is that the Conservative Party remains furious at Cameron for not winning the last Election outright and forcing them into a coalition.

True or not (I think it is true just to get off the fence for a moment) this sort of coverage (and many of the comments posted underneath which are in broad agreement with the writers) spell trouble for Project Cameron. Not least because the latest polls show the Labour Party has a steadily widening lead in the polls.

Phone hacking: social media is the new front line

Posted in Media with tags , , , , , on March 1, 2012 by Tom Leatherbarrow

Amid the hilarity contained in the news that the Metropolitan Police had lent Rebekah Brooks a horse, which led to the term #horsegate trending on Twitter, is a more serious point.

Well, actually there are multiple serious points, not least why the Metropolitan Police was lending livestock to the Chief Executive of a company it was supposed to be investigating? However, I intend, for the purpose of this blog, to concentrate on the media aspects.

There has been an orchestrated counter-attack over the last 10 days by the media establishment in the form of Michael Gove, current Education Secretary and former Times columnist; Trevor Kavanagh, former political editor of The Sun and Lord Hunt of the Press Complaints Commission. All have waded into the phone hacking debate and on-going Leveson Inquiry to criticise the Met’ for heavy handedness; accuse politicians of wanting a compliant media and Gove, in particular, accusing Leveson of creating a “chilling atmosphere” for the media to operate in.

I was privileged to be able to listen to Tom Watson MP at the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham last week and, in the course of a fascinating evening, he gave some insight into what is going on at the moment. “The danger, “ he said “is not that the public will get bored of phone hacking, but that the media will.”

In other words, there is nothing News International and others in the national media would like more than for phone hacking to go away and leave the status quo, including a rebadged but still compliant Press Complaints Commission, intact. Hence the articles talking about ‘over-reaction’ and the potential ‘threat’ to a free press.

The national media though has form in this area. When the Guardian was the only newspaper running with phone hacking stories prior to the Milly Dowler furore, Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, was forced, according to Watson, to call in a favour from the editor of the New York Times to get the paper to investigate phone hacking in the UK. The result was the mammoth investigative reporting piece that ran in the ‘Paper of Record’ in 2010.

Is the same happening again? I believe the public remains interested in this story, aghast at the journalistic tactics used by News International and deeply worried about its relationship with the Met. Don’t believe me? Why else would #horsegate start trending?

If the nationals try to sit on this story again however, Watson plans a different tactic. In his own words, “we’ll use social media to get the story out to the wider public.” In the modern media age the national press is no longer the only source of supply.

PS: Watson remains convinced that “there is a lot more to come” in relation to phone hacking, payment of public officials and computer hacking, as events this week at Leveson have demonstrated. The one to watch though is the Tommy Sheridan perjury conviction appeal. I won’t go into the details here, but Watson is convinced that Sheridan will win his appeal which has potentially serious implications for a certain former News of the World editor who subsequently went on to work as Head of Communications for the current Prime Minister!