There’s no-one more free market than Tim Bell, Lord Bell as he now is, whose attitude to taking on PR clients at his main PR business Bell Pottinger, is that of the London barrister who compares himself to a taxi driver.
You have to pick up the next one in the queue and if they turn out to be a serial killer, that’s life. So long as they pay their bills, of course.
But Chime Communications boss Bell, who made his name as MD of Saatchi & Saatchi in the days of the brothers and received his ennoblement courtesy of Margaret Thatcher, is taking a fearful whacking now as the Independent reveals the extent of the company’s involvement representing nasty regimes, Uzbekistan being the latest, and also the vainglorious boasting by some of his senior executives about the influence they wield with the UK government.
UK coalition PM David Cameron, who used to be a pretty slippery PR man himself in his one and only private sector job as chief bag carrier to Carlton TV boss Michael Green, has denied that Bell Pottinger execs, who include a lot of Tory figures, exercised undue influence with the Government. Cameron’s fag Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister, is disloyally trumpeting that lobbyists need to be brought to heel.
Bell himself has robustly refuted all the accusations, as he would. But Cameron and co now quite clearly see lobbyists as a political embarrassment and, under pressure from the Lib Dems, are likely to bring in some new rules to try to curb their influence (being Tories this will be somewhat half-hearted).
But, as Bell knows only too well, once the press have a sniff of scandal in their nostrils you never know what might turn up.