Only last month, Nick Clegg was suffered the ignominy of a Piers Morgan stitch up in the luxuriantly glossy pages of GQ. This prominent men’s monthly contains a fair spread of politically-flavoured articles and has featured both Cameron and Brown in recent months (Dave famously enjoying a front cover no less). This being the case, the Lib Dem PR fixer obviously thought they were on to a sure thing when it comes to media exposure for the party’s ambitious young leader. I imagine their mortification when the piece’s pull-out line referred directly to the leader’s love-life. Cue minor tabloid feeding frenzy as writers queued up to question Nick on his ‘no more than 30′ comment (which when read in context is actually very innocent).
I was then led to wonder whether it was the same party PR who promoted the idea of parachuting in Lembit Opik to save the day. Certainly not my first choice to face down poisonous pen of pernicious Piers, a journalist who was Editor at the News of the World at the tender age of 28. But interview him he did, and he waited for at least the first 30 seconds of questioning to pass before wading in with weighty questions on the subject of dating a cheeky girl. Fair to say, I don’t think that Lembit’s honourable responses prove enough to dampen Piers’s ardour for the tabloid angle.
The Lib Dem’s Housing Spokesperson even flatly denied that he was betrothed to said Romanian beauty. In fact, the intimate details of their union were announced in Hello the following day an omission that did not do much to impress Piers. Within the contents of the piece, Lembit gamely tried to distract his interviewer with responses based on the differences between relativist and absolutist standpoints on Iraq. Unfortunately, nothing was going to stand between Mr Morgan and his second Lib Dem scalp of the year.
The magazine’s cover carried the verdict: Another Lib Dem Bites the Dust, Piers Morgan Destroys Lembit Opik.
In terms of PR lessons learned? Leave Lembit in the pages of the political press, where he can display his obvious ability and intellect. I would perhaps focus instead on traditional party ground such as the fight to preserve civil liberty rather than the truly brutal battle ground fought on the pages of men’s lifestyle magazines.