Did Boris miss a trick on his Highland holiday?
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Recently I have been talking with a BBC producer about a possible documentary about Charles Kennedy.
I was approached about this because not only was I at one time Charles’s constituency chairman, but also because we were good friends. In fact it would be fair to say that I joined my party entirely because of him.
During the discussion, we ranged far and wide about some of the aspects of Charles’s character - one of which was his openness with the Press and his ability to always give a very straight answer to a straight question. This side of his nature was to serve him well during his all-too-short career, not least because it meant that the Press trusted him and accordingly portrayed him as an honest man.
For some years I had admired his ability to write a weekly column in this paper’s sister paper, the Ross-Shire Journal. Indeed, it was with this in mind that I first tentatively approached the then editor of this paper, Jimmy Henderson, with the view to writing my own column. That was 31 years ago! Goodness, what a lot of words from this particular writer have flowed under the bridge since then. Hi ho. But I digress.
A politician’s ability to deal with the Press once again came to my mind only a few weeks ago. It was when I spotted a copy of the Daily Mail in a village shop in the Republic of Ireland. On the front page was the picture of Boris’s tent (in the wrong field) in Wester Ross, not that far from Sutherland.
By nefarious means, or possibly not (the accusations were flying around the Commons last week), the newspaper had been tipped off that the Prime Minister and his girlfriend, Carrie, and their wee boy were holidaying there - and that was why a photographer with a long lens had taken a picture and the reporter had written the story.
End of - you might think. He was having his hols - and what of it? Left to its own momentum, the story might have died away - but for what happened next.
As we know, Boris and Carrie and their baby abruptly departed the scene and headed for London, leaving his security team to remove the tent. In my view, that was where he made a big mistake.
Consider an alternative scenario:
“Okay, boss - it’s a fair cop, I’m taking my holiday here - and now I would warmly invite BBC Highland, Moray Firth Radio, The Ross-Shire Journal, and the Northern Times to come and meet me at the gate at the top of the field where I will now give a COVID-safe open air press conference.
I believe that the media representatives I mentioned above would have relished the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister and ask him questions. I also believe that as a result of his invitation, they would have been friendly rather than hostile towards him. Afterall, how many of them get to interview a Prime Minister?
Boris could have told them what a lovely holiday he was having, how he loved the Highlands, would be coming back another time - oh, and by the way, Scotland, what an incredibly important part of the United Kingdom and he very much hoped that that same Kingdom would stay United. He could have got that message out and I reckon the wider press coverage would have rewarded him accordingly.
“Now folks, time’s up - I’m actually here for a holiday. If you don’t mind, I’d like to bring this press conference to a halt so that Carrie, Wilfred, and I may continue enjoying the delights of the Highlands”.
But he didn’t do any of this. Instead, his midnight flit created more bad publicity.
Ah well, you can lead a horse to water. But you can’t make it drink.