Public affairs chiefs at war! Chris Whitehouse turns on Francis Ingham
Whitehouse wants the PRCA to pipe down when it comes to public affairs matters.
A month after the PRCA-APPC merger got the green light and everyone looked like they would play nicely, is the stretched twig of peace already at melting point?
On Tuesday evening this week, Whitehouse Consultancy boss Chris Whitehouse expressed his pleasure at getting blocked on Twitter by PRCA director general Francis Ingham. He also dug up a rather uncomplimentary image of Ingham mocked up a few years ago by the right-wing Guido Fawkes blog.
At least one public affairs practitioner was unimpressed. “Am not sure what the point is - all seems rather unnecessary and certainly unpleasant. Not a collegiate or appropriate comment,” stated Chelgate CEO Liam Herbert.
But Whitehouse was undeterred this morning when he wrote to Ingham and new Public Affairs Board chair Paul Bristow to have another go. His beef? The new Public Affairs Board Twitter feed that has committed the crime of pushing out the odd story by this very organ!
In summary, Whitehouse insists that the chairman of the Public Affairs Board must be the only one pulling any strings when it comes to public affairs matters. And if that’s not the case then "The Whitehouse Consultancy cannot in good faith continue to remain a member of the PRCA".
Mr Stakeholder will be watching closely to see whether the PRCA backs away or fights its corner, but early indications are that Ingham is not for turning.
The PRCA boss told us: "“It’s just Chris being Chris. I'm sure in due course that he’ll apologise for the tweets -and in particular for the really rather vulgar leper allusion. At which point I’ll say no hard feelings; unblock him on twitter; and suggest that we all move on to discussing the things that actually matter to our industry."
Chris Whitehouse's letter in full
From: Chris Whitehouse
Sent: 12 December 2018 08:10
Subject: PRCA Public Affairs Board
To: 'Paul Bristow'
Cc: 'Francis Ingham'
I hope this note finds you well and take the opportunity to extend to you once again my congratulations on your selection as a Parliamentary Candidate for a major political party. I see from the media that you are already delivering an intensive and effective local campaign.
During the protracted merger talks between the APPC and the PRCA, repeated assurances were given that one of the main benefits would be clarity as to who speaks for political consultants, the Chair of the Public Affairs Board, not other staff or officers of the PRCA. It was also made clear that it would be for that Board to deal with matters pertaining directly to political consultants.
You may, or may not, be aware that a Twitter feed has been established for the Board which is sending out tweets that are openly commercial and to the benefit of individual businesses. As you know, since you intervened to prevent it, such commercial promotion of individual companies was not the modus operandi of the APPC not least because our focus was always primarily on ethical standards and self-regulation. When I challenged this development, it was not the Chair of the Board who engaged on the matter, but a paid employee of the PRCA who sought to justify the practice without, I presume given the timescale, any discussion with you, consultation with the Board, or any mandate at all from former APPC members.
By coincidence, the invoice for PRCA fees has just reached me. I have always made it apparent that our membership of the PRCA could not be assumed following the merger. A decision would be taken based upon the extent to which proper democratic processes were introduced to replace the now wholly inappropriate ones that governed the APPC’s Management Committee, and following a wider review of the PRCA’s practices. I understand discussions are continuing on the constitutional issues, but it is already clear that the assurance that it would be the Chair of the Board leading on matters relating to those subscribing to the Code of Practice for Political Consultants is worthless.
On that basis alone, given its fundamental importance to the decision to merge the two organisations, The Whitehouse Consultancy cannot in good faith continue to remain a member of the PRCA unless and until this unacceptable development, contrary to all assurances given during the discussions on merger, is addressed.