Diary: Ramsay turns up the heat
Thursday 11 November 2010
What did Freud Communications, Gordon Ramsay's PR reps, make of the bulldog-browed chef's "open letter" to his mother-in-law – especially as they're the third such firm to take on the fiery knife-man in two years? Ramsay was once expertly handled by top PR tactician Gary Farrow, who piloted him through the scandal of an alleged affair in 2008, only to be fired by Ramsay's father-in-law and former business partner Chris Hutcheson, who claimed that Gordon Ramsay Holdings could no longer afford him. When crisis hit the company in 2009, ex-News of the World editor Phil Hall was drafted in temporarily to field questions about Ramsay's finances, footballing credentials, boil-in-the-bag meals and earthy descriptions of Australian TV hosts. Neither Farrow nor Hall, one imagines, would have sanctioned this week's barmy strategy. Matthew Freud, now charged with rescuing the good names of both Ramsay and his empire, fought fires for Heston Blumenthal when his shellfish made diners ill last year. Best fetch the hoses, Matthew.
* The auburn tint of Danny Alexander's hair cropped up again at PMQs, as Nick Clegg reminded Harriet Harman of that "ginger rodent" jibe of hers. The Coalition seems to have the ginger vote sewn up: since Harman's misjudged (and, might I say, inexpertly delivered) gag, Alexander's office has been flooded with favourable correspondence from red-headed voters, thanking the Chief Treasury Sec for defending their much-maligned demographic. Alexander was also, I'm told, copied in on some rather more bilious missives for Harman.
* Interesting to see the Education Secretary and former NUJ striker Michael Gove in China with Dave, PM, and proudly sporting the poppy that so offended his hosts with its opium-based connotations. Interesting, too, to read – on the very same day – the advice of his new "Education Tsar", Simon Schama, on what every child should learn in history classes. Among the six historical events Schama listed as essential knowledge were China's opium wars: "Victorian Britain using the Royal Navy to protect hard drug trafficking? True!". If only Gove and Co had known the history, they might have postponed their visit until after Remembrance Sunday, and so avoided a diplomatic incident. Another quote comes to mind: "Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft." Now who said that?
* Sir Fred Goodwin, still having a spot of bother with expansion at his new £3.5m mansion (the building work is bothering his neighbours), is also faced with restructuring his new workplace: RMJM, the world's fifth-largest architectural business, which recently admitted cashflow problems, debts of more than £50m and a string of high-profile departures; two more top men cleared their desks this week. Moreover, the company's other big signing, thesub-starchitect Will Alsop, has failed to attract a single design commission since he was hired. Alsop, who left his own practice in 2009 to focus on his painting, was snapped up by RMJM a mere two months later, attracted by the company's "really global" reputation. Sadly, Sir Fred also has worldwide name recognition. RMJM insists its problems have nothing to do with the disgraced former financier. Yeah, probably just a coincidence.
* The New Yorker's 14-page profile of Rory Stewart MP, that ineffably modest Old Etonian, soldier, adventurer, diplomat, academic, prince among men and man among princes – he once locked himself in Prince Charles's loo at Highgrove – is a gift that keeps on giving. Today we learn that Stewart, whose childhood feelings of affinity with Alexander the Great (as well as Julius Caesar, Lawrence of Arabia and the fictional demigod Achilles) led him to name his toy horse Bucephalus, spent some of election day in May quoting from TS Eliot's "Four Quartets" through a megaphone. "The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility," Stewart intoned gravely before his bemused future constituents. "Humility is endless." I fear the great man was mistaken. Eliot, I mean.
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