Miles Kington: It's a tough life in the public relations business

Osama wants to soften his image a bit, so I was doing an availability check for the new Nigella chat show
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The Independent Online

I had to go to London this week in order to do some business and show solidarity with our London cousins by getting home again as fast as possible, but just as I was walking through the back streets of Westminster, looking fearfully for a taxi, who should I bump into but my old friend Adrian Wardour-Street, the king of PR.

He seemed preoccupied. He was on a mobile phone, yet he was not doing any of the talking. He was listening and frowning. He also shook his head once or twice.

"OK, Bob, leave it with me," he said, and rang off. Then he spotted me and brightened. "How nice to see a friendly face," he said. "Let me put something into it." And he steered me into a nearby café and ordered me a mango smoothie.

"How very apt," I said. "The smoothie should be the patron drink of the PR trade."

"I'm sure you're right," he said, in an annoyingly glib way which proved how right I was.

"And the porky pie the symbolic snack," I said.

But he wasn't listening. He was frowning again.

"Something wrong, Adrian?" I said.

"I do have a problem," he admitted. "I am ready for any challenge, but this time I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew."

"Tell me."

"I am doing some fund-raising."

"Tell me more."

"Did you read the other day that Mr Mugabe, the boss of Zimbabwe, has applied to South Africa for an immediate loan to rescue the economy?"

"Yes, I did."

"And that he has also turned to China for a billion-dollar rescue?"

"Yes, I ... Adrian! You don't mean to say that you are behind all this?!"

" 'Fraid so, old boy. You know I never could resist the lure of the untouchable client. That's why I have at various times represented the Taliban, and Osama bin Laden, and even Boris Johnson. So when Bob Mugabe rang up and asked me to do a bit of fund-raising, I said I would see what I could do."

"And what can you do?"

"Not a lot, it seems. I have been to all the places who are usually quick to lend money to people who can't pay it back. Arts Council. The Lottery. Barclays Bank. People like that. But as soon as I mention Zimbabwe, they back off like a threatened species. And now the Foreign Office have got in on the act."

"How exactly have they ...?"

"Well, they actively encouraging me to fix up a lucrative deal for Mugabe."

"Why would they ...?"

"Which would involve Mugabe travelling aboard to finalise it."

"Yes, but ..."

"Do I really have to spell all this out? The idea being that once President Mugabe is out of the country, the oppressed masses will rise up and oust his government."

"And will they?"

"I don't know," said Adrian. "That's the Foreign Office's business, not mine. I have never ever been involved in a coup d'état."

Just then his phone rang.

"Osama!" said Adrian. "Nice to hear your voice! Would you mind stepping outside your cave, though? You're breaking up badly ..."

"Osama bin Laden?" I said, when the call was over. "You're certainly being a bit controversial today."

"Controversial?" he said. "No, no, no! Just showbiz chatter. Osama wants to soften his image a bit, so I was doing an availability check on him for the new Nigella Lawson chat show."

"The Nigella Lawson show wants Osama bin Laden?" I said incredulously.

"Well, Osama is perfectly happy to go on it, and from what I've heard, the Nigella Lawson show desperately needs something like that, so we may have a deal."

Just then the phone went again.

"Your holiness," said Adrian, standing up respectfully. "Yes, I know we haven't had you in the headlines like we did the old Pope, but ..."

I tiptoed away and left him to it. Gee, but it's tough in the PR business.

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