Hugh Muir’s diary | A rallying cry in Whitehall from the man who wrestled the chicken

Who crossed the road to get to the chicken? The government’s new PR supremo, of course

• Ill-will between civil servants and the coalition. And nowhere more so than among the massed ranks of government press officers and communications folk. Reassuring, then, to receive a stirring pep talk from their incoming executive director, Alex Aiken: “A clear story, consistent communications and robust evaluation helps drive performance as well as enhancing reputation,” he says via email. But this is greeted with scepticism by those with memories stretching back to 1997. The Mail on Sunday reported in 2009 that: “As a spin doctor to Mr Major in the 1997 Election, Mr Aiken was involved in a farcical political stunt involving two chickens. The Tories sent a man dressed as a chicken to Labour events to highlight Tony Blair’s refusal to respond to Mr Major’s challenge to a TV debate. But the Labour-supporting Daily Mirror retaliated by sending a headless chicken to a Tory meeting. The Mirror chicken, manned by the son of DJ David Hamilton, engaged in a slow cockfight with the Tory chicken to shouts of ‘peck him’ from assembled photographers. Enraged, Mr Aiken wrestled the headless chicken to the ground. Mr Aiken later claimed: ‘It walked into me.'” Robust certainly. Enhanced his own reputation no end.

• The worker bees might please the new boss just by getting simple things right. And in time this new approach might spread to the UK Border Agency and its agents. But right now we have a situation, flagged up by the Institute of Race Relations, in which officials are accused of being economical with the actualité to project a certain cuddliness. The institute points to an HM Inspector of Prisons report into the Sandford House short-term holding facility, run by private sector contractor Reliance. “Reliance’s detainee welfare forum minutes suggested that some diversity training by Citizens UK” is “being rolled out”, the inspector’s report says. But it doesn’t seem right so the institute checks with Citizens UK. It’s nonsense: Citizens UK “observed Reliance training days”, but “has not provided diversity training to Reliance staff and there are no plans to do so at present”. The institute worries about the relationship between the two bodies, but is more concerned about misleading information in government reports. Perhaps the inspector needs to revisit the issue again.

• Sniping of late towards the leader who might have been, David Miliband. What’s he up to, people ask. Is he still sulking? Why don’t we hear more from him? Well the fact is that he is very busy; busy making a lot of money – £125,000 for 15 days’ work at Sunderland FC. Some reports claim he has made £500,000 in income and expenses in a single year. One is unsurprised, therefore, to learn from the Hampstead & Highgate Express that Mili Sr is renovating the homestead. Camden councillors have approved his plans for a basement extension and an agreeable roof terrace. A man of means and status must have property to match.

• The same might be said of the comedian Harry Enfield – but it seems that he doesn’t enjoy the same municipal respect as, say, David Miliband. Enfield’s application to turn a pub into a £3m, five-bedroom house has attracted ire from the neighbours. Consequently, it risks being thrown out.

• Perhaps Harry should try a bit of sucking up to the municipal chiefs upon whose whim his grand project now depends. And if he doesn’t know how, he might follow the fine example of the French exile Gerard Depardieu, now a valued citizen of Putin’s Russia. “The Russian opposition has no policies. Nothing. There are intelligent people among them, such as Garry Kasparov, but that’s good for chess and nothing else.” That’s the spirit, Gerard. That dodgy passport doesn’t pay for itself.

• Let us welcome to our now beloved quarter of north London, the all-conquering giants of Google – who have finally confirmed they will be moving their UK headquarters to Guardian-ville – also known as King’s Cross. The only question is why they have persisted in denying straight questions about it when everyone had known for years. Still, when you’re Google, you do what you like. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Enjoyed this post? Share it!


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.