Monthly Archives: June 2016

Referendum Horror

We sat up all night to watch the voting coming in for the EU Referendum on Thursday and spent yesterday in a weary bubble of disbelief. What has been obvious ever since the disastrous vote was finalised is that no-one in Government really believed that Brexit would win, and, now that they have, everyone, without fail, is in shock.

With my PR hat on, I have to say that the Brexit people came up with the best strategy; they realised that they were never going to be able to persuade the expats (surely no surprise that just about everyone in Gibraltar voted to stay!), the City of London, the business world and the generally more affluent and/or educated, and focused only on targeting those people in the poorer areas, the less educated and those that, presumably because they have had a lobotomy, follow the ghastly Nigel Farage. Their focus, therefore, being on immigration, Brussels and the NHS’s supposed lack of funding, using simple messages and what can only be described as ‘brain-washing techniques’. And, guess what? It worked.

Maybe if the Remain team had thought this through a bit better, they could have come up with a cleverer plan of attack. Given that the group mentioned above (expats, City of London, etc) were pretty much a given, perhaps they should have used simpler messages to appeal to the more likely Brexit group. For example:

• That the pound dropping against the Euro is going to make just about everything a lot more expensive… especially mobile phone tariffs, petrol, food…
• That even less investment into the UK and many companies pulling out will increase unemployment
• That flying on Easyjet and Ryanair and staying in holiday hotels will cost more pounds in return for their Euro charges than before
• That the millions of pounds being paid to the EU each week will not simply be diverted to the NHS – sadly this is not how it works – and that the NHS will be suffering even more than it is now by being even more short-staffed due to having a smaller pool of people to staff from
• That exiting the EU is not going to make a blind bit of difference to the illegal immigration that so many people are concerned about; listening to some of the people being interviewed this morning, it is clear that when they talk about ‘immigration’ they are not meaning the nice Polish people in the café down the road, but more the large amount of displaced people that are arriving into Europe from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Sadly, (and my non-British people wont believe this….or maybe they will!!!) many less educated Brits still only think that there is ‘British’ and ‘foreign’, and do not differentiate between nationalities). (And, actually, I suspect that the problems with the illegal immigrants trying to get into the UK from Calais will be much bigger when the French decide not to help with managing what is happening on their own land will refuse to help any more).
• And that the problems of disentangling the UK from the EU will take a long time and will need to be the focus of whatever government is unlucky enough to have to deal with it – with the consequence that less of their time will be spent on dealing with the very problems that the Brexit people are concerned about.

Etc, etc, etc.

I wonder how long it will be before we start to hear those ‘Brexit people’ that own up to voting to leave complaining that ‘we wouldn’t have voted to leave if we had realised that this would happen.’ Not very long I expect.
Time to start figuring out how to get an Austrian passport!

All Hail Sir Bob Geldof

I have always loved Sir Bob Geldof. From the early days, when he was the front man of the Boomtown Rats and singing about hating Mondays (when I was on the edge of the ‘new romantic’ scene in my hometown and hanging out with some dodgy (but eventually quite successful) bands such as the Anti Nowhere League and the Damned), to his launch of Band Aid and then the incredible Live Aid concert, an event that no one who watched it will ever forget. Sir Bob and his rock star friends did more then (and he still does) to keep Britain ‘Great’ than any of the political or business figures that have since been celebrated with a knighthood or similar… not that he probably cares so much about his own.

We were actually lucky enough to have dinner with Sir Bob not so long ago. He was in Prague to give a special prize at a huge charity event and the Kempinski Hotel, for whom the agency worked at the time, was the hospitality partner. Without going into too much detail, the evening ended with a small group of us grabbing Bob and his manager and retiring to the hotel for dinner, and then staying until 3.00 am in the morning exchanging stories and listening, awe inspired, to Bob. By the end of the evening, eight people (male and female) were well and truly in love with him; his knowledge of just about everything, his great sense of humour and his total lack of self importance was something to behold; I said after that dinner, and I still believe, that if I was walking along a street in London and he was coming the other way, he would be sure to hail me with the words ‘Hey Jo, how’s it going’ or similar…. just a regular guy remembering a fun time in Prague.

Bob was banned from Irish TV for a while, having been invited to speak on a talk show and then going off at a tangent about the possibility that some old Irish priests had been guilty of abusing young boys (as if?!). He shook the British establishment when he said the ‘f’ word for the first time in daytime hours during the Live Aid broadcast (the words ‘give us your ….ing money’ still being regularly quoted in the same breath as Bob’s name). He has made millions (as has often been pointed out, with a little bit of a sneer), not through anything improper but because he is a stunningly good businessman and in huge demand by corporations all over the world as a speaker (on, probably, just about anything). But he still goes down the pub, collects his luggage at the airport like everyone else, and continues to live his life as normally as possible.

Sir Bob can always be relied on to shake up the establishment if there is something he feels passionately about. And when he speaks, many people listen, as he is usually right. He just says it, or does it, in a way that the British old school don’t really like. Who, therefore, could have been surprised yesterday evening, to hear that a boat travelling up the Thames to challenge the terrible Nigel Farage and his friends who were sailing along on a ‘Brexit mission’, had Sir Bob at the helm. Magnificent. Needless to say, the majority of the media have focused mostly on the rude gestures and Bob’s general ‘scruffiness’. But the sensible ones have listened and reported on what he had to say. So should we all. Brilliant people such as Sir Bob understand how dangerous it will be for Britain to leave the EU. Idiots such as Nigel Farage and his ilk have no idea.

Britain needs you!

Attending an event last night in Prague and meeting several other Brits that live here, it was clear that there is only one thing on our minds at the moment, and that is the result of the vote on the 23rd June. So far, and including yesterday, I have not met one Brit that is not outraged that the vote is even happening, let alone that the impossibility might happen and the voters will decide that Britain should leave the EU.

Living in a country that only relatively recently joined the EU allows us to see just how many positives membership of the EU brings rather than the stated negatives of the Brexit supporters: the EU rules that some Brits seem to be complaining about have made the Czech Republic a much better, safer and marginally less corrupt place to live in than it was before joining, the immigration policy is just as tough now as it was before (i.e. when it comes to those from countries that the CR doesn’t like), and the GDP of the country has increased by God knows what percentage despite the economic crisis of the last few years.

Of course, the Brexit voters would say that the situation in the UK is completely different to the situation in the Czech Republic, but is it? I wonder how many EU rules the man in the UK street can actually point to as causing him or her a problem. And will not being a part of the EU actually make any difference to the immigration problem? Can anyone explain why that would be? I think not.

As a PR expert, I am pretty damn good at spinning a story to be negative or positive, depending on what is required. Some of the spin that the Bremain people are coming up with though is staggering and if someone in my office suggested using some of their ridiculous plays on words for a client’s project I would tell them to go back to the drawing board. But somehow it seems that many people in the UK are being taken in by it.

Having lived abroad for more than fifteen years, I am not able to vote; that in itself seems completely ridiculous, since I am still British; I pay into a pension plan there, some of my family live there, and I had originally thought that one day we will return to spend our retirement there. So if you are reading this in the UK, and are not planning to vote, please have one (remain!) for me! Britain needs you!!