The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: A few tips for Tony's press man from an old pro

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The Independent Online
WOULD YOU forgive me if I put the subject of the excellent Mr Blair and his bold new no-whingeing policies on the 'back-burner' (whatever that might be - I leave all the kitchen chores to the lovely ladies in my life]) for just this one week?

On Wednesday last, the Labour leader - tough, I'm glad to say, on the causes of poverty, ie the poor themselves - announced the appointment of Mr Alastair Campbell as his Press Secretary. Mr Campbell has a pleasant demeanour, a good, strong handshake and speaks up well, so I am sure he will prove himself well-suited to the task. But a man of his tender years should be wise enough to know that a few tips from an old hand at the Public Relations game could never go amiss, and so it is with all due humility that I offer him a nod and a wink in the right direction.

I need hardly add that my own Public Relations company, Arnold Bell Chalfont plc - or ABC for short] - has handled many a prestigious account in the past, having worked our own particular brand of magic on behalf of, among others, the Shah of Iran, the Blue Arrow organisation, President and Mrs Marcos, Mr Carl Henty-Dodd, Polly Peck, Mrs Virginia Bottomley, the Chernobyl Tourist Board and, most recently, the hugely successful Child Support Agency, few of whom would enjoy their level of public standing today were it not for you-know-who.

But it would be most valuable to the education of Mr Campbell were I to remove and examine just one casebook from our many heaving shelves of notable clients. Thus I stretch out my arm and select - quite at random - the file marked 'Ferguson'.

ABC plc has been privileged to handle the Ferguson account ever since we were first approached by a jubilant Major Ronald Ferguson in the spring of '86 with the news that his daughter Sarah was engaged to marry the Duke of York. Could we arrange commercial sponsorship for the Major in his role as father-in- law to the brother of the future king? 'Vital to get the girl's face in all the papers, then we'll sit back, wait for the knock-on effect, and Bob's Your Uncle,' he said. He thought we could work the same trick for him. 'After all,' he chortled, 'it's not every day you have a marvellous old character like my own good self popping up as the Master of the Queen's Polo Ponies, eh?'

Quick as a flash, we realised that we had - if you'll pardon the jargon] - a 'hot property' on our hands. I trust I need not add that, every step of the way we were as anxious as the Major that he should never compromise his dignity, nor the dignity of the Royal Family. Thus when the Major was approached by a leading custard manufacturer to appear naked with a monocle in his eye swimming through a pool of custard with a Kiss Me Quick hat on his head, attended by seven Page 3 dollybirds, he was adamant that there was a possibility that the monocle might make him look a bit foolish, and so without further ado we insisted on a no-monocle contract.

Needless to say, we have had our ups and downs with the public image of the Major, though his mishaps, in recent years, appear to have 'bottomed out' (dread phrase]). Where once he was promoting horse- brasses, riding crops, couture saddles, after-dinner panatellas and expensive makes of four-wheel- drive, we are now pointing him in the direction of the Special Brew Party Pack, Game-For-a-Laugh Novelty Masks for the Senior Citizen and Technicolor Condom market, but this should in no way be construed as a move down market, merely as a re-targeting of his corporate sales potential.

This autumn heralds the relaunch of Major Ronald, with an autobiography With Honour and Dignity: My Life in Service, subtitled, at the behest of the publishers, 'The Bonking, Honking, Horny Major Bares All]' And we are proud to announce that our clients now include his daughter, the Duchess of York, who wishes us to bring out the hitherto supressed enigmatic side of her character, to which end we have arranged an 18-page full-colour spread in Hello] magazine of her discovering herself on a Tibetan mountain-top holding a signed copy of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran in one hand, a gorgeous little orphan from a Third World country in the other, all the while modelling an enigmatic new one-piece bikini from Miss Selfridge. Over to you, now, Alastair - I trust you will work similar wonders for the redoubtable Mr Blair]