The agreeable world of Wallace Arnold: How I got to grips with his grey image

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Indy Lifestyle Online
LAST week, I wrote most movingly of the early days of my now legendary public relations company and the minor miracles it has performed on the previously tainted public awareness of, among others, the Social Democratic Party, TV- am, the Maxwell corporation and Polly Peck plc, as well as the spring cleaning we performed on that most estimable of generating stations, Chernobyl, renaming it Sunnyview and giving it an upbeat image.

'Where are you going on holiday this year?'

'I'm delighted to say we're off skiing at Sunnyview'

'You lucky things] How we envy you] We must save up to go to Sunnyview ourselves next year]'

This is the sort of conversation one hears these days on commuter trains, market stalls and public thoroughfares - yet it wasn't that long ago that the name of Chernobyl was suffering dreadfully from what our friends in Australia term the 'tall poppy syndrome' - this country's almost pathological need to pull down anything or anyone touched with success.

My hard-earned knowledge of our national love of carping at those blessed with more bloody get-up-and-go than ourselves meant that it came as no surprise when the professional whingers (or 'gentlemen of the press' as we laughingly term 'em]) turned their fire on the greatest of our current national heroes, Mr John Major.

It had been an extraordinary personal achievement that this plain and simple man, inarticulate and innumerate, with neither education nor intelligence, with little knowledge of economics, politics or world affairs, still managed to work his way up to the highest office in the land, yet, being British, his critics did not applaud. From John's earliest days in Number 10, they were intent on belittling the rise of this humble, almost dull, monosyllabic and wholly uncharismatic little chap, carping that he was 'not up to the job' - as if he had claimed he was]

Small wonder, then, that, a little while back, John picked up his phone, rang my number and implored Wallace Arnold Network Knowhow plc to find him a more positive public image. The result? In just 18 months, John Major has become respected as an international statesman, as well as earning the puppy-like devotion of his own grateful people for his resolute handling of the economy.

How did I pull it off? I called him into my office and told him that what he needed was a professional rethink. 'Believe me, John,' I said, 'there's nothing remotely wrong in the way you've gone about bringing Britain to a standstill - it's purely and simply a matter of preservation.' I then called our company colour co-ordinator in. After she had fixed him up with a smart new grey suit and two-tone grey tie, I took John to one side and asked him if he had any hobbies or pastimes we might 'play up' for the general public. He ummed and erred a bit, and then told me that he would give the matter his urgent consideration.

'For instance, John, at the end of a long, stressful day, perhaps you like to relax with a Trollope.'

'Not at all,' he replied huffily, 'I'm a happily married man.'

'Does the Small House at Arlington mean nothing to you?'

'Let me say this quite clearly, I have never been there, nor do I intend to go there, and I have never to my knowledge met the inhabitant of those aforementioned premises. I hope I make myself plain.'

I informed him that Trollope was an author of a type associated with all world statesmen with bottom, and that he would do well to be spotted in public flicking through one of his weighty tomes, perhaps while making a major policy statement. Hey presto] The one thing we all now know about Mr Major is his deep and abiding love of Trollope, and consequently his image has received a most positive boost, so that even all those many millions of unemployed (dread word]) now look on him in a new, upbeat and positive light. Hats off to Arnold, methinks]

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