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Saatchi and Saatchi and my part in their piss-up

Posted on 10 September 2010 | 8:09am

To the Saatchi Gallery last night after a plaintive call from a Labour Saatchi person (oh yes, they exist) to say the Saatchi and Saatchi 40th anniversary bash was a bit of a Tory wipe out.

Hardly surprising, given its ‘Labour isn’t working’ role in helping Mrs T way back when and she and lots of her ministers were there – John Major, Ken Baker, Norman Lamont, John Wakeham among them – amid dozens of good-looking women from advertising clearly glad that ‘Mad Men’ was back on the screens.

In his speech, Maurice Saatchi was humble enough to say he owed his success in large part to the fact that Mrs Thatcher, now wheelchair-bound and rather frail-looking, if still with that unmistakeable hair, put her faith in the company he started with his brother Charles.

There were hundreds of people there, and it was too hot, but I had some very enjoyable ‘all our yesterdays’ chats with some of the politicians I used to cover as a journalist and then take on as a political campaigner.

Ken Baker seems to have aged the best. He was as irrepressibly upbeat and happy as ever, and gave me this piece of advice … ‘Never ever stop working’. I reminded him of a previous piece of advice he gave me, when Tony Blair hired me in 1994 … ‘Nobody can do that job for more than four years!’ He roared with laughter, said ‘you did well to ignore me, you sat at the TOP TABLE OF HISTORY and loved every minute.’ He waved away my protestations about how much I loved it.

Lots of them seemed to be reading, or have read, TB’s book, and were enjoying it. Lots were talking about Andy Coulson. His problem would seem to be a sense of disbelief (among politicians and journalists) that he had no idea the phone-hacking was taking place when he was editing the News of the World. Old heads now worry about whether David Cameron has ever sought to establish the truth himself, with an eyeball to eyeball chat with his communications director. Because if anything emerges to embarrass Coulson in any of the inquiries into all this, Cameron’s judgement will also become an issue. Interesting too how current Tory MPs were saying that the real issue was how widespread illegal practices may have been, and not just at the News of the World. Press regulation is definitely on the political agenda, and it could be Tory MPs pushing hardest for it.

Of the current Cabinet, I only saw Andrew Lansley, who said he was loving every minute of being Health Secretary. Good to see the NHS Direct campaign making progress incidentally. But not for the first time in a room full of political strategists, the most telling observation I heard was from Philip Gould.

He is as irrepressibly chirpy as Ken Baker. But I think he may be onto something when he says that between them the Tory Party and the media managed to persuade a lot of people that Britain had become a terrible place to live. It is not, it is a good place to live. But the cuts planned by the coalition government – George Osborne added a few more billion to them yesterday to make the BBC’s Nick Robinson feel good about driving up and down the A1 with a perspex box – will make it a much worse place to live for quite a lot of people who will suddenly realise they have lost things they valued.

That is the challenge Saatchi’s successors as Tory strategists should be thinking about. They do seem a bit sidetracked by Andy Coulson right now, but I think Philip has a point.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Tory media policy is dictated by the Murdoch media empire.
    You only have to compare James Murdoch´s 2009 MacTaggart lecture with the Tories´ policy positions to see it.
    Murdochs are trying to buy the rest (61%) of Sky.
    BBC´s Mark Thompson said in his lecture this year that Sky is becoming a dominant force in British TV, but it is not investing enough.
    Will we see Foxification of UK news with the help of the coalition?
    The Murdochs, like the Tories, are against the BBC and Ofcom. The reason for this is simple: their commercial interests.
    The Murdochs already own the Sun, NOTW, the Times and the Sunday Times. Plus a big publisher.
    What next? With the Tories in power, who is going to stop them?

    Ps. If Coulson knew as now seems to be the case, who else?

  • Malcolm Harper

    The Osborne interview was remarkable. One wonders if it had all been set up at the meeting Mark Thompson BBC Director General had at Number 10. Robinson goes off on the road, gets a few members of the public to slag off so called scroungers, then sees Osborne who gives him a nice little headline … oh, and suddenly Coulson is off the news again. The cuts are really going to hurt and it will not be enough to blame Labour. Osborne is now cutting because he wants to not because he has to

  • Carly Morrison

    Mad Men is the best thing on telly since the West Wing. Love the frocks

  • Paul Bellman

    Cruel tweet last night AC re nobody thinking Major a giant! Harsh but true. Must admit, you kind of forget he was there. Certain’y can’t forget Maggie and judging by last night. Osborne hasn’t.

  • Yinka Oyesanya.

    New Labour are running scared of Andy Coulson. He has successfully played them at their own game; deception and spin.

  • Jockmenzies09

    Over the past 10 years the crime rate in Britain dropped around 43% but the newspapers worked on creating a culture of fear so that people believed crime was getting worse. Isn’t it time people took on this sort of propaganda?

  • Johnycarrs

    HI ALISTAIR, WE ARE WRITING IN CAPITALS BECAUSE WE ARE DRUNK AND WANT EVERYONE TO LISTEN,

    MY SISTER AND I WERE JUST TALKING ABOUT YOU, WE ARE 26 AND 28, SO A BIG CHUNK OF OUR LIFE WAS YOUR BABY NEW LABOUR

    WE HAVE JUST LISTENED TO TONYS AUDIO BOOK, WE HAVE ALSO LISTENED TO YOURS, WE JUST TO SAY THANKYOU, AND WE LOVE YOU BOTH, YOU ARE AMAZING PEOPLE. PEOPLE SAY ALLOT OF RUBBISH ABOUT YOU BOTH, BUT MOST PEOPEL WE KNOW WTHINK YOU ARE GREAT DUDES, OUR LITTLE DRUNK SPEECH DOESNT DO JUSTICE TO HOW GREAT.

    BUT THE POINT IS THIS, THERE IS BEAUTY IN THE WORLD, THERE IS A HIGHER POWER THAN EVOLUTIONARY PHYCOLOGY OR PURE DARWINISM THAT WITHIN THE HUMAM SPIRIT, SOMETHING NO ONE CAN EXPLAIN, BUT YOU AND TB HAVE THAT BEAUTY, YOU DID A GREAT JOB, NEVER LET ANYONE TELL YOU DIFFERENT, AND WE WISH WONDERFUL FUTURES FOR YOU AND TONY, HOPEFULLY YOU COME BACK ONE DAY!!!

    SO SORRY BUT HOPE DRUNKEN RANTS ARE ALLOWED ON THIS FORUM.

    LOTS OF LOVE, PEACE HAPPINESS AND BEST WISHES TO YOU TONY AND ALL YOUR FAMILY

    JOHN AND MICHELLE CARR

  • Guest

    Erm. Didn’t Philip Gould advocate a Labour/LibDem merger?

  • Guest

    Erm. Didn’t Philip Gould advocate a Labour/LibDem merger?

  • Gayle Court

    Interesting that the Mail and Telegraph are leading today with stories of how much more money public sector workers earn by comparison with the private sector. Can it be coincidence that the TUC Conference were discussing the effects of the Coalition cuts on Monday? Just to put the record straight, a Band 2 NHS employee, who will incidentally, pay more income tax than your average non-dom, earns between £13,233 and £16,333.

  • Gayle Court

    Interesting that the Mail and Telegraph are leading today with stories of how much more money public sector workers earn by comparison with the private sector. Can it be coincidence that the TUC Conference were discussing the effects of the Coalition cuts on Monday? Just to put the record straight, a Band 2 NHS employee, who will incidentally, pay more income tax than your average non-dom, earns between £13,233 and £16,333.