The EU, Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and the Sussexes are all racking up the PR own goals: Bernard Ingham

What, I ask in my ranting against the follies of the age, have this little lot got in common: the European Union, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, US President Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, Sir Keir Starmer, teachers’ unions, chief constables and commerce and industry that are withdrawing services to the community?

Boris Johnson with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the Berlaymont building at the EU headquarters in Brussels on December 9, 2020 (Photo by OLIVIER HOSLET/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Answer: abject presentation, or public relations (PR). I have a professional interest after 48 years in journalism and 24 in the Government Information Service.

How do you sell your story to news editors and Government policy and actions to the public? Answer – by good presentation based on news sense and, with governments, through credibility based on common sense and consistency of words and deeds.

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The EU’s behaviour over its Covid vaccine disaster speaks volumes about the unelected Brussels bureaucracy. Their irresponsible bumbling over the pandemic, followed by a U-turn on the effectiveness of the Oxford AstraZeneca jab after threatening to ban its export to us when they thought it dangerous, has only advertised its incompetence.

Does Brussels bother what 450m people across the Continent think? On this evidence the great European federal project is bust since elected national governments decided it was every country for itself in acquiring vaccines.

Then the Sussexes. Their PR advisers are no doubt making a mint out of their public appearances. I wouldn’t pay them in washers. The Oprah Winfrey interview, presumably devised to tell the world of their wokish TLC for the world’s minorities while washing Royal dirty linen in public, has done them no good at all.

Their resort to the airwaves has been little short of disastrous for them in the UK. You can’t convincingly display your compassion while casting aspersions on your family’s approach to race, especially when the Queen is head of the multi-racial Commonwealth.

Do they and their advisors know what they are doing?

President Biden did himself no good either when he jumped in to declare his support for the Sussexes after their broadcast.

It struck me as blatantly blind opportunism in view of American race relations.

Turning to our politicians, Boris Johnson ought to have known better than to get himself embroiled in an argument over who funds the refurbishment of his flat in No 11 Downing Street and then laying out £2.5m on new media briefing rooms in No 9.

Does he not realise that his Government has run up a £400bn budget deficit because of Covid and that he desperately needs to demonstrate the need for economy, especially when nurses are being held to a one per cent pay rise?

Margaret Thatcher must be spinning in her grave over his extravagance.

Incidentally, I don’t understand claims that Denis Thatcher’s smoking left the wallpaper in Boris’s flat stained. The Thatchers lived in No 10 not No 11.

As for Labour leader, Keir Starmer, wrapping himself in the Union Jack and proclaiming his patriotism, I despair. After all, he was a leading Opposition light under Jeremy Corbyn who loathed Britain’s history and its values and regularly associated with our enemies. Does Starmer think the public walk about with their eyes and ears shut?

Credibility is all in conveying messages to the public. Which brings me to the teachers’ unions (as distinct from the bulk of teachers) and chief constables.

We are entitled to ask whether the unions are in the business of education or narrow self-interest.

Similarly, are chief constables in the business of upholding the law or suppressing free speech with their emphasis on hate “crime” which does not break the law?

I feel sorry for the ordinary copper trying to keep us safe when they are kept behind desks or car wheels and police stations are being closed.

Having said that I think the police were on to a hiding to nothing in trying to handle an illegal vigil during lockdown for Sarah Everard.

Finally, we come to banks disappearing from the High Street and companies that are withdrawing services and building telephonic barriers between them and their customers whose business they profess to be important to them.

Sheer PR incompetence.

I sometimes think that Britain’s productivity problem would be solved if so much time were not wasted ringing failed service providers.

In the 1980s I foolishly told American correspondents that Mrs Thatcher felt service in Britain was improving.

They laughed me to scorn.

We Brits did not know the meaning of service, they said.

Now we (and others) don’t know the meaning of public relations – and don’t seem to care.

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