The Independent have, to use the vernacular, torn lobbyists Bell Pottinger a new one this morning with a hidden camera laying bare their pitch to undercover journalists. Posing as representatives of Uzbek president Islam Karimov, whose repertoire includes boiling his political opponents alive, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism recorded the spinners’ boasts of access to senior government figures including David Cameron.
The splash is not without collateral damage. Setting out different ways in which the firm could leverage influence, Tory MP turned consultant Tim Collins embarrassed Times executive editor and chief leader writer Daniel Finkelstein by claiming:
“He will sit down and have lunch with just about anybody”
Indeed, the Bell Pottinger team know one or two things about London restaurants. Seen daily at culinary haunts such as Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus — where a bottle of the most lowly house plonk will set you back £56 — Bell Pottinger chair Peter Bingle has cultivated an image as “never knowingly under lunched”, telling PR Week’s David Singleton on schmoozing his wealthy accounts:
“For every client, every person you deal with, you know the restaurant they like, the food they like, the wine they like, the ambience,’ he says. ‘That’s part of what we do. If you can understand that people need to feel comfortable, at home and relaxed, that’s how it works.”
President Karimov likes his dissidents hard boiled.