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Speech on modern media, modern comms, modern strategy and why the Queen is a great communicator

Posted on 27 June 2013 | 9:06am

Here is the speech I am about to make – grandly titled an Oration Address by the organisers, to the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs, Thursday June 27, Melbourne.​ Forgive the references to slides, lovingly prepared by my daughter, which the audience will see but I don’t have a clue how to put on here.

Thanks. Intro. Adlib Aussie politics latest.

Slide 1 and 2…. Lions jokes. Welcome Paul O’Connell.

Love this place. Have no Irish or Aussie blood, but once said I felt half Irish and half Aussie. Suppose it means I used to like a drink and I still like a fight. Feel very British but have never felt English despite being born there and lived there most of my life.

So a bit hurt to find on this trip that since my last one you have to have a visa. Suppose you had to get your own back on us one day. World of change indeed. Applied online. Two weeks later nothing to say it was happening.

SLIDE 3 … So I used, or maybe misused, twitter to ask @aushouselondon and the immigration department sorted immediately, for which thanks.

Good PR, I say. I love the place, but the need for a visa made me love it less. Spending ten minutes mistyping my passport number online made the love die a little more. Not hearing made it worse. Then one twitter exchange and all is happy and I love you even more.

And actually that little exchange brought home to me the central point I was planning to make here anyway. That the PR landscape, like the media landscape, has changed beyond all recognition, and that public affairs now covers any interaction between any two people or organisations. That exchange was between me, my phone, and a guy on the other side of the world who saw a relevant Aussie address come up, and who got a grip. No journos, no PRs, no marketeers, just someone with a sense of the product – in this case one person’s feeling for your country – and an understanding it was worth stepping in. The product, large or small, is what will decide the strength or weakness of the PR. Strategy, to me, has always been about the joining up of dots to paint a picture in the public mind as close to the one you want them to see. @sandihlogan landed a dot on my Aussie landscape that erased the negative dots my application had been landing. More about me and my dots later.

Any of you who have been in London recently, may have seen an exhibition at the British Library, on the history of propaganda. Some great stuff there.

SLIDE 4 This one shows UK government tracking of national morale during the 2nd World War – and we were meant to be the first to use focus groups!

SLIDE 5 … these fantastic – and fantastically successful – Norman Rockwell posters urging Americans to buy bonds in the war.

SLIDE 6 … speaking as someone whose next book is about a young woman alcoholic, I liked this anti alcohol poster from France from way back. Wonderful quotes and speeches going back over time, and then an amazing wall showing the twitter activity on the night Obama was re-elected and the world’s most retweeted tweet was sent ….
SLIDE 7 A picture of Barack and Michelle, and the words ‘four more years.’

There has always been comms. There has always been public affairs. There has always been PR. There has always been spin. Read the bible for heaven’s sake. What is new is not spin but the reality of a globalized media age, an information economy, a world where technology is accelerating the pace of change on an exponential basis. Nor have there been political and media systems which for most democracies mean that even if people wished not to tell the truth, the pressures are all to do so, and woe betide those who don’t.

That’s not always been the case. I read a book recently on the relationship between

SLIDE 8 Churchill and de Gaulle, who could regale each other with stories of their public deceptions, and perhaps in doing so deceived each other too. Another recent book, Ben Macintyre’s Double Cross, showed how Churchill got actively involved in the preparation of what he called the ‘bodyguard of lies’ to accompany the truth that an invasion across the English Channel was being planned. Macintyre states as a fact that after the invasion, Churchill lied to Parliament to keep various deceptions going.

Yet if the pollsters were to do a survey, who had a greater commitment to wartime truth,

SLIDE 9 Churchill in World War 2 or Tony Blair in Iraq? I think we know what the answer would be … it just wouldn’t be true. Interesting paradox in a world full of them.

Here is another one.

As the PR industry grew up, for the brains and brand gurus, it did a lousy job on its own reputation, and indeed terms like “PR” and “spin” are synonyms for bullshit, lies, deception.

So if PRs were so good at PR, why did PR get such a bad reputation? Answer, in my view, partly because some PRs aren’t actually so good at it,
SLIDE 10 but also because the real spin doctors in the modern world are journalists, broadcasters and bloggers, and they want their readers, viewers and listeners to think they have the monopoly on truth, and so subtly and not so subtly suggest people ignore everyone else – politicians and their spokesmen, companies and their advisers, countries and their brand managers.

And that is a change from most of the past decades covered in that exhibition, when news and comment, fact and opinion, were more separate than they are today, and when people assumed that governments and leaders and brands would want to propagandize on their own behalf, and had every right to. It’s just that it got a lot harder.

So does the bad PR matter? Well if you look at the stats for the growth in your industry, maybe not?

SLIDE 11 Despite its PR problem, the comms industry is still growing and still fundamental to economies, governments, businesses, individuals in the public eye. People think about it more, act on it more, because whether we like it or not this is a media age, and for the communicator – be that a government or a minister, a brand or a business leader, a charity or a celeb – the interaction with the public space has become more complicated, and therefore the demand for simplicity is stronger.

In a world of greater chaos, people search for greater clarity.
In a world of ceaseless innovation, people take comfort from the known and the familiar.
In a world of more negativity, people look for more hope.
But in a world of more choice and more information, people are getting better at knowing reality from spin, separating good from mediocre, they’re faster at making judgments at which is which, and often they are right.

So the driving question should not be ‘what will the daily so and so say if we do this?’ but what should we do, and what should we say about what we do, to help meet the objectives we have set for ourselves and pursue the strategy we have agreed to meet those objectives, and take the public with us as we go.

And to illustrate that point, I am drawn to the observation by Wayne Burns, in that excellent journal, Corporate Public Affairs…

SLIDE 12 …PR is dead, where he wrote

‘…core activities once comprising core PR (‘press’ and media relations, ‘push’ and marketing communications, crisis communications, product launches) are siblings to a much larger family of public affairs elements—issues management, internal communications, investor relations, stakeholder engagement, government and industry relations and corporate responsibility.’

Certainly the definition of PR as being focused on getting a good press, whatever that means these days, is close to being redundant. Here I think you are ahead of us in the language, though I like to think London is still the comms capital of the world.

So if no longer PR, what?

SLIDE 13 To give you the answer I want to tell you a story about Bill Clinton. It used to upset TB when I said Clinton was the greatest strategic communicator I worked with. Tony thought he was.

Now if I say to you ‘when Bill Clinton had his troubles …’ what image comes to your mind? The wars he dealt with? The economic crises? The public service reforms?

SLIDE 14 No, every single one of you thought of Monica. Now how much bad press did he get during that period? Tons of it, global.

Yet on the day the Starr report came out, Clinton was on the phone to TB. They talked about Ireland and Russia. I know, because I was listening.

A few years later, when his book came out, I did an interview with him for TV. I asked him if he remembered the conversation. He did. I asked how he was able to focus on something like Ireland and Russia when his whole life, personal, political, professional, might be about to crash around him.

He said this… I had a simple OBJECTIVE – survival. My STRATEGY was to get up every day, focus on those things only I could do, because I was the President. And my TACTICS were to make sure the people knew that is what I was doing. They sustained me throughout.

SLIDE 15 I love that story. Not least because OST had always been Number 1 on the list of ten guidelines for leadership and strategy that I had on a postcard I always carried with me. 1. OST. 2 Be Bold. 3. Be adaptable. 4. Best team leaders are best team players. 5. Stay calm in a crisis. 6. Listen but lead. 7. Get good out of bad. 8. YOU set the agenda. 9. Head above parapet. 10. Visualise the victory.

But OST is the most important of those.

Clinton said something else that stuck with me that day ‘Too many decision makers define their reality according to that day’s media. It is almost always a mistake.’

Tactics have taken over in so many organisations. Governments which drift from day to day. Products which think that a bought trend on twitter equates somehow to a product being popular. It might be. But is it selling? Is the strategy clear?

I did some work recently with a political leader who asked the question ‘how do I do the right thing and stay popular?’
My answer was that ‘you do the right thing.’

SLIDE 16 But you do it within a clear strategic framework, you engage the public in a much more sustained way, and you run co-ordination systems that work, so that OVER TIME your messages get through, OVER TIME your changes are understood and they deliver, and OVER TIME people become much more reasonable in their analysis. What you do is more important than what you say, but how you say what you do will help you if you are doing the right thing. Every time you say or you do, you land a dot.

SLIDE 17 Let’s take my own experience with New Labour. Ok, in 1997 we were up against a tired, weak and divided government, but that is never enough, certainly not enough to win a landslide. Yes Tony Blair was a young, exciting leader and a good communicator. That is not enough either. You need strategy and one that is so clear, so strong, so thought through that nobody can be in doubt as to what it is. Nobody internally, nobody externally. And the best strategies can be communicated in a word, a phrase, a paragraph, a page, a speech, and a book.

The word – Modernisation.
The phrase – New Labour New Britain.
The paragraph – Many not the few, future not the past, leadership not drift, education the No 1 priority.
I’ll spare you the rest, but you can buy the books afterwards.

There is no more direct public affairs relationship than that between a political party and the electorate, particularly if you are coming from Opposition. We had three years with TB as leader before an election. My goal was that by the time of the election, when his face came on screen, or people saw that slogan, they had an idea what was coming, regardless of what the newsreader or any other intermediary said. And they got that idea by the dots joining up to paint the picture. If it did not say modernization, don’t say it. If the policy said past not future, don’t do it. And understand that like anything good in life, the communication of a strategy over time is a team game in which there is the internal team, and the development of an external team, those you are reaching, turning them from passive supporters to activists.

No surprise that Obama has the most retweeted tweet.

SLIDE 18 His campaigns took social media to a new level. Lots of the focus has been on the fundraising. Let’s be clear – their money came from big money, and the line that it was all a dollar here, fifty dollars there was, dare I say it, good PR. The real genius was the way they used social media to find supporters they didn’t know about, turn them into activists they did know about, and get them finding more supporters and turning them into activists too.

Here is the thing. People do not trust politicians like they used to. They don’t trust the media to tell the truth like they used to. They don’t trust banks or brands. So who do we trust? We trust each other.

SLIDE 19 People trust their friends – that is the genius of Facebook, the concept of the friend. I met a woman in Liverpool recently, who introduced herself with the words ‘you don’t know me but I’m your friend.’ Took me a moment to work it out but yes, there was a bond, and the friend of the friend of the friend is a key strategic tool in joining up the dots to paint the picture that you want to paint. And your message has to be so clear that even a child with a paintbrush could get it and pass it on.

This clarity is what people like you, and people like me, can help others with, governments and companies and causes with a mass of interconnecting but often confusing and contradictory activities going on. Think about why people come to people like us. Often, because things are going awry. Because they have an idea but they are having trouble explaining it. Because they have a plan – but the plan is not going according to plan. Because they think that what they do is great but the media don’t seem to agree, and they want help getting the message out. So they want a new digital presence or they want a series of meetings with opinion formers or they want a new slogan and strap line. And all those things might be doable. But they all jump ahead of what is usually their problem. They are not clear about who they are, what they are doing, their DNA.

SLIDE 20 Getting to the heart of the DNA is the heart of good PR and public affairs. It is little or nothing to do with whether you can place a puff piece here or get the CEO into an airline magazine feature or have a nice dinner with a bunch of self important columnists.

They are all tactics. But objective and strategy should always come first.

I get calls from people out of the blue – again the new world. I am on Facebook, twitter, people can email me direct on my website. Helps me cut out middle men and agents and get better deals for what I do. Makes people feel you are accessible – which I am. But when a government or company or a big brand comes on, I always assume two things – they have a problem, and they think it is about the communications. They think they need a spin doctor.

So I go and see them and the first thing I do is say who are your key people, and I ask to see them too, at the same time. And I get out some plain white postcards.

SLIDE 21 And on each one is written the words ‘The main objective of our organization is …’ and I ask them to end that sentence. Then I ask them to turn over the postcard, and it says

SLIDE 22 ‘The strategy to meet our objective is …’ and I ask them to fill that out too. Then I gather them in. And nine times out of ten, I gather in a stack of different objectives, strategies which are tactics, or strategies which are objectives, and I say to them … you don’t have a spin problem, you have a reality problem. And I say if you are not aligned on strategy, you the key people running the show, why should the public be expected to know and hear what you are trying to say or sell to them, and why should the media not take every chance it can get to make your life more difficult, pore over your errors, ignore your successes?

So good public affairs is not about spin; it is about strategy, and reputation.

SLIDE 23 Ask most leaders, most CEOs, charities, generals, doctors, teachers, policemen, scientists, celebs, or private citizens now too because of social media – what is their most important commodity, and high if not top of the list is reputation. That is built on many things. CV. Values. Attitudes. Record of achievement. Record of failure. Ups and downs. Looks or charisma. Media skills. But above all in my view it is built on strategy.

And it is amazing what you can survive if you stay true to your own values and you stay strategic. Think of Clinton, again.

A story of myself at the time of the Hutton Inquiry. Woman up the street who stopped me as I was out for a run, escaping the media pack outside my house. ‘You do realize,’ she said ‘that if we believed everything they are saying, you wouldn’t be able to go out on your own.’

Ten years on, for all the bad publicity I have had – and there has been plenty – you still want to hear what I have to say. That to me stems from putting reputation and strategy ahead of giving a shit what people say about you on a day to day basis.

So whether you call it PR, marketing, comms, public affairs, or a mix of it all, what I think matters is strategic advice and reputation support.

Even now, even though much of what I have said is blindingly obvious, in many governments and businesses and organisations, comms is not at the top table.

SLIDE 24 TB understood instinctively that in the modern world comms is not simply the means by which you explain, it must be integrated into your strategy. Churchill knew that too. So did Lincoln. They just did not have to have someone thinking about it for them 24 hours of every day

So did Paul Keating. So did Bob Hawke. Maybe Howard in the early years. So did Muhammad Ali. So does Angela Merkel. So does Richard Branson. So does Jose Mourinho.

SLIDE 25 And how odd that someone like Rupert Murdoch, his papers so brilliant at tearing down the reputations of others, couldn’t see that if their fell way below the standards they expect of people in other walks of public life, his reputation would be hit hard, maybe irreparably. At every event I have done so far here I have asked for a show of hands to the question – Murdoch — good reputation or bad? So far, one hand has gone up for good, hundreds for bad. Let’s try it again. It is partly because of the criminality exposed in London but also because of a sense that the sole interest has been power and money, without regard to broader social good or deeper values.

24/7 media and technological change have upped the tactical pressures, so the response must be more strategic. A harsher, bigger, coarser media has made the reputation game one that never ends, and that needs planning and support.

So surely the days have to be behind us when comms is NOT at the top table.

SLIDE 26 And yet, and yet …. Whatever else Tony Hayward was, he wasn’t the guy to do the public facing stuff when disaster struck BP with the deepwater crisis. But did they have the conversation they needed to have in any crisis management planning, the one that said you might not be the best guy to do the front of house stuff when the shit hits the fan?

These days smart companies have communications at their top tables. Directors of Communication have teams, budgets and access, and get taken seriously.

SLIDE 27 Social media is the big buzz thing right now. Real change. But here above all, in the world of instant fusion of news and comment, I say again, social media’s pressures are to be tactical, so the response should be strategic.

I love twitter. I love the instant platform it gives. I love the way people send me things they think I will be interested in. I love the arguments I can get into. I love the way I can get straight into the guts of a Tory minister. I love getting my visa sorted. And people assume I must have tweeted when I was in Number 10.

Twitter didn’t exist when I left Number 10, let alone when I started. Nor did Facebook. BBC online was like a new fancy thing that at the start nobody took seriously. Now twitter is a major news source. Facebook 1bn plus people. Youtube with more video content uploaded every month than the three main US networks broadcast in their first 60 years. I do not see twitter as tactical, but as one of many tools with which to take forward a strategy based on landing

Sure, in some ways, the digital age threatens the PR industry. It means that information is democratized. Things get picked up virally, not from conversations between PR men and hacks in pubs, whose agenda setting powers have diminished. Kids can build websites in their bedrooms, anybody can tweet and get picked up, people can blog their opinions, respond in comment forums

These are trends which could threaten traditional comms with extinction. Why do people need, for example, 350 offices around the world, when they can meet virtually and tweet?

SLIDE 28 But for comms at its best, the new world is an opportunity to be taken more seriously. Not least by together putting over the message that at its best it is an economic force for good, and can be a political and social force for good. And by understanding that the one thing the kid in his bedroom is unlikely to be able to do is good strategic and reputational support, which is what the team I work with at Portland aim to do. So you need to bang the drum for comms, not defensively, but with a sense of how much it matters and how much it can achieve.

And for the brands, worth remembering that with very few exceptions public affairs people are paid less than lawyers, accountants, auditors or other professional services – back to the reputation issue eh?

It’s true you don’t need to pass an exam to be a spindoctor. There are still a fair few chinless wonders in the game.

But really good operators can add a lot more value than just another lawyer. In fact one of the lawyers I was once involved with, at the time of the Hutton Inquiry, said to me sometimes law is just PR with a wig on. And more expensive.
But the experience, expertise and judgement of the very best people is rarer and more valuable than what you pick up slogging through accountancy or law exams.

So the question for the industry is how to be taken more seriously, and how to change.

Some of the most challenged are financial PR shops. For companies, financial market comms are not enough. For years, City PR was a closed world of analysts and business correspondents, AGMs and RNS feeds. But these days share price and operating environment depend on much more than what the City thinks. Barely a week goes by without a company, and a big one at that, being forced onto the back foot by a genuine public reaction to something it has done, sold, said.

SLIDE 29 Or take the banks more generally. When the crash came, the politicians had to step in. They sorted the mess and took a lot of the hits. Fred Goodwin of RBS became the banker bogeyman. The other bankers kept their heads down. They mistook lower profile for higher reputation. Rubbish. They were never going to get away with it. So – Witness Barclays in the UK: markets and commentators were firmly behind Bob Diamond, but he was swept away by views of other stakeholders.

It is also a challenge for consumer PR. People care not just about the brands they buy, but the companies behind them.

SLIDE 30 Take some of the extraordinary success stories of the new economy – Google, Apple, Starbucks, Nestlé, Vodafone. People may love what they do and give, but they also want to know whether they respect their customers, pay their taxes, use slave labour, cut down forests or whatever.

And in this future driven by digital trends, what’s happening is the convergence of corporate reputation and consumer behaviour. If customers suffer a bad experience, their stories can be shared and amplified online and picked up by the mainstream media, policy-makers and regulators. And, in turn, if brands are seen to behave poorly as a corporate entity, people now have the ability to connect and create mass movements against them.

It is people who wield the influence, not their job titles.

As I tweeted when I was writing this speech a couple of weeks ago,
SLIDE 31 The ability to self publish and make digital links across normal boundaries gives the opportunity for new players to emerge and become important voices. Their sway is driven by their connectivity, their ability to make others listen and share their thoughts and opinions. Content may still be created on television, in newspapers, in books and so on, but it is shared by social media. Lots of dots, some landing for you, many landing against you.

If you’re not on social media, you are dislocated from your markets. You are simply the subject of other people’s opinions, whether right or wrong, about your business. If you’re there, you can help shape the dialogue, demonstrating a willingness to engage and explain, building trust and, crucially, shortening the gap between the institution and the audience. It may all seem tactical. Social media used properly is a modern strategic tool.

You’ve seen Obama’s most retweeted tweet.

SLIDE 32 Let me show you mine. I campaign for better understanding and treatment of mental illness. Not a sexy subject. But this one, when Stephen Fry tried to kill himself, and people asked what he had to be depressed about, and I said would you ask what someone had to be cancerous, diabetic or asthmatic about, got into five figures of retweets and favourites. That is reaching a lot of people and maybe changing a few minds and outlooks.

SLIDE 33 One of the books not out there is one I have out in October, on Ireland. TB has kindly written an intro for it, in which he talks about the lessons of the peace process, but he says in passing that when people think back on his time, as with other PMs, they do tend to think of the big things that happened, good and bad, not the million and one frenzies that most of us have forgotten.

SLIDE 34 I thought the same when Mrs Thatcher died; and again when Alex Ferguson announced his retirement. Both have had plenty of enemies, ups and downs, things going wrong. We won three elections in part by saying Thatcher’s day was done. Alex Ferguson was once one game away from the sack. But come the reckoning, even Thatcher’s enemies acknowledged, as did Fergie’s, that when it came to the battles between the long term and the short term, the tactical and the strategic, they won. Their reputations over time strengthened by knowing that it is a battle. Amid the noise of play, the strategist must dictate the game.

And I leave you with this thought. I am not the world’s biggest Monarchist, and I am not just saying that because I’m here. The first ever political argument I can remember was on Christmas Day when I was about seven and I could not see why I had to sit down and listen to the Queen telling me what she thought, when I wanted to play football. And it was weird, the week Princess Diana died, being effectively seconded to the Palace to help them deal with the aftermath in the extraordinary days following her death, when it felt at times like there was something close to a revolution in the air.

But if you were to ask yourself which public figure has enjoyed the most sustained positive image around the world, over our lifetimes, I think it might be Nelson Mandela, but

SLIDE 34 The Queen would be close to Number 1. Plenty of ups and downs for sure. But she is the embodiment of lesson 1 – you just keep going.

And here’s something interesting. She has never ever given an interview. But she sure as hell has had an objective – to stay there, not least here in Australia. And she sure as hell has had a good understanding of strategy in meeting that objective, as Murdoch, Turnbull and many others will testify. And every time she landed a dot, in what she wore, how the spoke, where she went, what she did … she pretty much said and did the same thing, again and again and again.

When I started writing this speech, I did not imagine I would end singing the praises of the Queen as one of the great strategic communicators of our time but, as I said at the top, it’s all about landing the dots where and how you want them, and if I am the King of Spin, she is the Queen of dotlanding.

Upsum. Adlib. Thanks. Over and out.

  • Michele

    Some hours later … and having bothered to read the OP! ….
    It’s last para, I too find myself landed in the situation (which my Dad RiP would be gobsmacked about) of growing in to being glad we don’t live in a republic.
    (For DS if around …… that is NOT the same as saying ‘growing up to’ it clearly says IN to.)

    I don’t know what she thinks of Cameron but I’m sure as hell glad he can never be our HoS and don’t envy those countries that ‘elect’ theirs, way too much ego involved as opposed to duty.
    There’s also a lot of hypocrisy in some of those ‘republics’ that have accepted their own dynasties being formed in the past century.

    A neighbour who’s even more mouthy than me was ranting at the weekend that we should skip a generation for the next monarch, I can’t imagine anything more spiteful. The Queen has been restricted to duty since an early age but PC has been restricted even more by not being allowed to marry the woman he really loved when they were young (and for very un-PC reasons and a horrible lack of discretion about her in the media of the time).

  • Dave Simons

    I was made to wave a flag when the queen zipped past me in a car in 1953. I was also taken to watch the coronation on TV at somebody’s house. As as infant I thought then, “She looks miserable”. I’ve endured this miserable woman with her silly posh accent and equally silly protocol ever since. If I listen to Radio 4 and hear that damned music – the so-called ‘national’ anthem – revving up, I immediately leap across the room and switch it off. And surprise surprise! When most of the rest of us are taking cuts she is getting a rise from this old-fashioned Tory government.
    The queen is the embodiment of elitism, snobbery and anti-democracy. She could choose not to be that, just as the rest of her silly, sponging family could. So she is ‘one of the great communicators of our time’. Absolute bullshit! That means that the best communication is no communication. Don’t forget to SPEAK ONLY WHEN YOU ARE SPOKEN TO!

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, but whether you believe that stuff about the Queen or not, you shouldn’t have said it. It’s too redolent of the brown noses who turn monarchist later in life. And on a day when she just took a 5% increase in income…

  • Luke Tulysewski

    Thoroughly enjoyed the speech (including the surprise ending) as well as your presentation to the class in the morning. Your sheet of acronyms will have a spot on my desk from now on. A pleasure to meet you.

  • Anonymous

    Saw your interview the other day, clip of you here on Oz telly there, on the Labor business Ali, as per, but before they binned her for gawd knows what real reasons,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfc1VgP41b4

    To say I am upset, well, yes I am, since she is the first PM of a country that Wales has had, since Julia was born in Barry, where Stacey from Gavin and Stacey was also from, in fiction. Joanne Paige is actually a Swansea girl. Anyway, better point out that David Lloyd-George was born in Manchester, where his parents moved to, to work in the cotton trade, from North Wales, just in case anyone wonders that.

  • Dave Simons

    I’m just reading Catherine Bailey’s book (2012), ‘The Secret Rooms’. She’s apparently managed to get where generations of local and national historians have failed to get – into the archives of the Rutlands of Belvoir Castle (and Haddon Hall, and, etc). I don’t think Catherine Bailey is a republican – just an occasionally naive historian who has a particular fascination with the skeletons in the cupboard of upper class families. She’s already had a look at the Fitzwilliams of Wentworth Woodhouse (and other places) and I believe she’s currently researching the Sitwells (Scarborough, Renishaw, etc). During the reign of Elizabeth II we have been told by Tory politicians like Harold Macmillan and John Major (and an army of sociologists trying to bury or apologise for their Marxist-inclined pasts) that Britain is a classless society. The Rutlands were and are one of the closest aristocratic families to the monarchy. I would urge anyone to read Catherine Bailey’s ‘The Secret Rooms’ and then explain to me why class is alive and kicking and there has not yet been a serious social revolution in Britain. I’m sure it’s possible without reigns of terror and dictatorships – just a bit of what Thomas Paine called ‘Common Sense’.

  • Anonymous

    I was quite amazed at the neg comments you were getting at huff post. Although I am a tory, I can recognise a good job when I see it and all i did was point that out.
    Now it has dawned on me. People do not believe that TB or GB were the guys in power. They think that you were one really in charge and responsible for the government. I have no clue what they think a press secretary or director of communications is supposed to do, but I gather they expect him to highlight where the government is weakest.
    Anyway I thought the speech above makes some very good points and is very enlightening – I would have paid to hear it!

  • Michele

    I’m going off topic :-)
    That’s alright though as the world has gone potty.
    I worked hard to not gip in to my lovely coffee on Saturday when listening to Today, Humphrys interviewing Mick Jagger at Glastonbury.
    Good g*d.

    Meantime there are still deliberations about Syria all over the other media re which side has used Sarin.

    I’m sure it was Humphrys that interviewed Hans Blix in ’03, about five weeks in to the Iraq invasion, when the UN inspector said he had decided that Saddam had very likely sent his WsMD across to Syria for Assad to look after for a while.

    It was a very detailed explanation and certain words have stuck in my memory.

    Mr Blix said it was unlikely Saddam would have allowed himself to be humiliated in the perceptions of his people by doing anything resembling ‘obeying’ the UN and getting rid of his weapons (properly or temporarily).

    He said that by sending the stash in to hiding in a neighbouring country he could have played something like ‘a game of poker’ by not allowing his people to know he been forced to do anything by anyone (while wrongfooting the anyones).

    I’ve not heard Humphrys reminisce about this interview and I know Mr Blix is retired but surely that interview should be recalled …. maybe even be re-played? Isn’t Mr Humphrys supposed to be a marvel?

    It’s got little to do with which side has actually used Sarin in Syria but has a lot to do with where it might have come from (and a lot to do with Today).

  • Anonymous

    My goodness Michele, I agree with you! I know, you’d better take a seat quick but on this occasion you have it spot on in my opinion.

    For what it’s worth, it was published a good time ago that a monarchy, more precisely our monarchy, was ‘cheaper’ than the costs incurred in a republic. Maybe they should do a cost-benefit exercise to confirm whether or not it’s true.

  • Michele

    I don’t share your inverted snobbery.

    The Queen does her job well, she might have led a materially-privileged life but not a free one (and can know very little sense of achievement re what she gets to do or use or drape herself in).

    When I think about what I was doing at 24 compared to her, still newly married and mother of two but bereaved …… then crowned.

    When I had my kid I could work part-time and drop everything to go wherever and however I wanted, in me wave clips if I’d so chosen.

    As suggested earlier, my very monarchist Dad would be laughing at my ‘conversion’ but having been inside some republics I know where I prefer being. It’s not about national wealth, anybody that supposes classlessness is automatic in republics is just plain silly.

  • Gilliebc

    An interesting post Dave. You pose the question of why there has not yet been a serious social revolution in Britain. I would suggest that one or part of the reasons is that most people believe we live in a ‘democracy’. Given the evidence before us and it has never been clearer than it is now, we do not have a democracy and never have had. The masses are deceived into believing that because they are allowed to vote every 4 or 5 years, that they have a say in things, which is utter rubbish. The fake L v R paradigm has kept us plebs divided and ruled for as long as it has existed. Even protest groups such as the EDL, BNP and UKIP for example, are all set up and financed by the same group of ‘ruling elite’. There is always some group already set up and waiting for people who want and think they can change things. The ruling elite have already thought of and prepared for what might challenge them. These ruling elite have been around for a very long time. Since ancient times in fact. For them it’s all about blood-lines and inter-breeding with their own kind. e.g. the Galtons, Darwins, Wedgewoods etc. A quick look at the lineage of those parasites in Buck House is an almighty give away, for those who really want to see things as they truly are. However, the sad thing is that most of the people have been programmed into liking their servitude. Most don’t even know they are slaves.

  • Anonymous

    WHAT? been pulled, try this then,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8R78Kfeo2cY

    Maybe should have posted that link instead then in the first place.

  • Gilliebc

    I agree with your final sentence. Republics certainly do not make for classless societies.

  • Michele

    Thud ;-)

    I think it’s been amply proved that the Queen is willing to be led and advised and not pretend she’s da boss (viz: the courageous way she behaved after TB’s intervention post-Di’s death, going out and walking among that disapproving crowd all alone).

    I posted to you on the same topic a couple of months ago, sticking up for her staying out of sight in the early days, saying that for someone so conventional of her generation that was very simply the way bereavement was marked. Curtains closed and staying in …..

    Having lost someone in a RTA too I know how shattering such shock can be. However, it’s layyyte so late!

  • Dave Simons

    I doubt if there’s much truth in your comment about the relative cheapness of a monarchy – whose figures are you using? Prince Charles’s? But even if what you say were true I think a lot of us would prefer the supposed extra costs of a republic to a monarchy – on principle!

    Michelle – the queen has a choice which you don’t have. She can opt out and get a proper job. You can’t opt in to her none-job as a monarch. I’m glad to hear she keeps herself busy though! No-one, by the way, has suggested that republics are necessarily classless – some are certainly relatively classless. One day perhaps England will say goodbye to its stuffy class obsession and breathe fresh air. Do read ‘Secret Rooms’ though and tell me how lovable is the English aristocracy.

  • Michele

    They’re the only alternative to a hereditary system though (except those of them that still resemble hereditary systems despite calling themselves republics)?
    India, Pakistan, N Korea etc etc etc and then there are the non-hereditary and plain unattractive systems, France, Italy blab blah blab.

    As for USA and its royals by ‘virtue’ of filthy lucre in LA and Manhattan ! Yuk ;-)

    Sweden’s been another good example of democracy despite a loose monarchy and one that insisted govt’s role is to rule for the people. However, the slithering problems they’re having at the mo are so similar to our own, same pattern / sequence / hiving off etc. Same method (ie: right and centre right coalition) has achieved/enabled all the reductions in public services and selling off to private :
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17961250

    Soooo much vacuousness in Labour at the mo. Everybody sat there silently in PMQs this week while cheek-chewing Hunt rambled on about unknown unknowns.

    He had the GALL to say Labour govts did not know what was happening in hospitals aaaaaaaah, that must be why there was so much controversy about charts and targets and waiting list queues. It must be how rampant trolley deaths of mid-late 90s became virtually unknown. It must be how, till 2000 GPs didn’t even have to tell NHS or Govt how many patients they had on their lists or how many they saw in a session blah blah etc (I witnessed this at performance assessment meetings, they actually exploited the Hippocratic!). It’s mebbe also why there was so much hospital bed blocking going on due to older patients refusing to be discharged except to nursing homes of their own religion (excuses excuses).

    Alan Milburn put a stop to all of that and now what’s he doing? Ho hum, helping to get the last vestiges of that vastly-improved NHS sold off to private by the sound of things :-(

  • Anonymous

    The one time we ‘disposed’ of the monarch was a bit of a disaster, I’m sure deep down you wouldn’t want a repetition!

  • Dave Simons

    I wouldn’t want a repetition of the restoration, no. We owe a darn sight more to Cromwell than to Charles I or Charles II. After 1660 people soon kicked the monarch back into position, but they didn’t kick hard enough. Cromwell must be one of the most maligned figures in English history, thanks to the restoration. I suggest you read Antonia Fraser’s biography – she’s capable of balanced judgement.

  • Gary Rae

    Genius, despite slide malfunction.