Mark Leftly: What if everyone said exactly what they meant?


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Westminster Outlook One of the more amusing moments at Business Select Committee hearings over the past year was when the plain-speaking Tory Brian Binley railed against financial jargon.

Sitting next to him was Robin Walker, the hugely likeable Tory MP for Worcester. The 36-year-old is so likeable, a senior Labour MP comments that “if the Tories were full of people like Robin, they would win every general election”. But even the most saintly have murky pasts: Mr Walker, you see, was once in PR.

Moreover, he was a very powerful spinner indeed as he worked for the City’s most influential PR firm, Finsbury. If he didn’t invent half of the jargon Mr Binley so despises, he certainly helped some of the misleading drivel that spews out of the City to become common language.

Which, eventually, brings me to the newly launched, a PR-driven site that “draws a line through political clichés”. Indeed, Polifiller literally draws a line through tired, meaningless phrases like “one nation”, “zero tolerance” and “tough choices” when you copy and paste a political speech on to the site.

The City needs something similar for its results and other regulatory announcements, though I’d prefer a translation service.

I’ll make a start for the next PR firm* that wants to develop a self-promoting gimmick:

Work in progress. Money owed to a company that it will never receive and should, under no circumstances, be considered an asset.

Like for like. Not including new launches that have gone badly this year.

Underlying basis. Ignoring the actual results and only including sales and markets that have gone well.

Exceptional items. Putting aside financial disasters – even those possibly ruinous to the company – that are sometimes, though certainly not always, rare events.

Yup, that would make financial reporting a lot simpler and easier understand, as well as ensuring stories are far more accurate.

*I suppose I should plug Houston PR for devising Polifiller. Congratulations, your gimmick got you some coverage.