The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: Grace and PR favours

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The Independent Online
I NOTE with interest that my old friend and quaffing partner Sir Tim Bell has been plying his considerable charms upon the gentlemen (]]) of the press in support of the affable Mr Birt - and with no little success, I might add]

Hats off, then, to 'TB', as he is affectionately known in the trade. 'Have you had TB yet?' is the familiar cry among the Great and the Good when trouble looms. I'm happy to say Sir Tim taught me all I know about the public relations game way back in the late Seventies and early Eighties.

Few people realise quite how influential a man Tim is, guiding major public figures 'behind the scenes', as it were, towards a more positive public image. Without Tim's help, for instance, Jeffrey Archer would now be seen by the general public as some sort of slimy reptile rather than the figure of immense stature on the world stage that he has undoubtedly become. Similarly, that Lord King is now regarded with universal respect as a man of the utmost integrity is due in no small part to the estimable Sir Tim.

I would go further. Without Tim's firm hand on the helm, Cecil Parkinson might now be seen by 'the Great British Public' (dread words]) not as a first- rate character of nobility and vision but as a no-good, two-timing philanderer. Who knows? Without Sir Tim, even the dashing young Mark Thatcher might not now hold his world place in the Great British Heart.

By 1985, I broke most amicably with Tim, to set up as Wallace Arnold Network Knowhow plc. The rest, as they say, is history.

My first great coup lay in attracting the lucrative Chernobyl account. The powers-that-be in what was then the Soviet Union decided that a more positive, upbeat image was needed for this splendid nuclear power station after it had taken a battering from a sustained campaign of press smear and innuendo. Before the dust had cleared, I had advised an immediate name-change from Chernobyl to Sunnyview, and further ruled that the explosion should henceforth be termed 'the happytime', fall-out should be called 'happydust' and so-called victims be known as 'beneficiaries'.

There followed an immediate turnaround in the public perception; indeed, I was happy to report to my Soviet colleagues that our comprehensive surveys, conducted in the most scientific fashion throughout our offices, showed that more than 60 per cent of the sample questioned were planning to take their summer holidays in the Chernobyl, or 'Sunnyview', region within the next five years.

Soon, the accounts were flooding in: Dr Owen's Social Democratic Party, the Maxwell Corporation, TVam and Polly Peck plc, and, due to perseverance and experience, I am happy to say that not one of them has need of my services any longer. Fortunately, as one happy client bids farewell, another apppears, and I am proud to announce the start of an association between myself and the Duchess of York.

Her Grace came to me after being subjected to a very negative press. She wanted a more positive, upbeat image, in tune with her true character. Though I myself receive a modest 15 per cent of her net earnings, my prime thoughts are, of course, for her rehabilitation in the public eye. To this end we have a very full range of projects and personal appearances mapped out, all designed to project her as a lady of boundless dignity and dedication.

In May, for instance, she will open for a limited season at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, in a revival of the classic English comedy, No Sex Please, We're British. She then enters the studios to record a very tasteful album of classic love songs; Fergie Goes Funky will be released in February 1994. She will then conduct a nationwide tour to promote her delightful new book, Budgie Goes Topless, before rounding off a busy year with an appearance on the prestigious Kilroy television programme, breaking down as she recounts hitherto unknown details of her tempestuous marriage. The result? A new, positive Fergie, loved and respected by a grateful nation. What on earth, one wonders, would we do without PR?