Saturday, 8 March 2008

All the presidents men

I love a good movie. Particular those really slow, complex political thrillers where nothing much happens for hours on end. All the best ones have a mysterious chap who pops up, provides key bits of information and then vanishes in to thin air. All The Presidents Men is a great example of the genre. Remember Deep Throat? (To any male reader aged 40 and over - no, I don't mean Linda Lovelace). I mean the unnamed FBI source who fed the Washington Post reporters with information about Watergate, from the shadows of an underground parking lot. What a great film.
Last week my very own Deep Throat popped up, causing a huge amount of debate and forcing decisions that might have far reaching consequences for Garlik's relationship with the Government. Or might not. We really don't know.

I got an email out of the blue from a concerned member of the public who had some very interesting information about the way the UK Government handles our personal information. He had heard about Garlik's role in acting for the individual and wanted us to publicise the issues so that something could be done about it. He had worked really hard, investigating the issue over a year or more, using the Freedom of Information laws to demand answers from about 15 difference government departments and the answers he got confirmed his fears.

Well, we and our PR company spent hours debating the issue, whether we wanted to be involved, getting legal advice on the issue itself, figuring out the best way to package up the research for media consumption, working out different approaches to the media and worrying about the government response. Finally I took the decision that we should go for it.

I felt a bit like one of those newspaper editors with a controversial story who says "Hold the front page. Let's run this story and damn the consequences" and then strolls calmly out of the office with a jacket slung casually over his shoulder.

Except in this case, I didn't actually have a newspaper at my disposal. Nor a jacket. And if I strolled out of the office, then there would be no-one left in the office to actually "run" the story. But, hey, it felt a bit like it.

Anyway, we wrote the press release, did our homework and hit the phones to the media. We sent the press release to every newspaper, every radio and TV outlet and lots of online magazines. The story is embargoed (can't be printed) until Monday 10th March, so we won't know until Monday morning what the impact is.

You never can tell with the press. After all this, you just need a funny looking cat to get stuck up a tree and suddenly our story will disappear and the papers will be filled with pictured of cats and trees and interviews with neighbours of the cat owner. Or it will be a slow news day and our story will front page news. I have no idea and no way of knowing. So, we just wait and see.

And if it does hit big and make an impact, what is the Government response going to be? Will it ignore it, keep it's head down and let the issue pass in the hopes that it will go away? Will it look at it reasonably, take some notice and do something about it? Or will it go on the attack and start ripping me to shreds for raising the issue in the first place? We'll see.

So, my very own Deep Throat has potentially led me in to a storm. Or it might end up being a light spring shower and just blow over. I'll find out on Monday. All the Presidents Men? Damn. I knew I should have stuck with the Linda Lovelace version.

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