Is Hammond’s U-Turn really such a PR disaster?
As both a PR and a business owner I can see both sides. One side that offers a gift to the media and columnists; maybe if he’d concentrated more on the content of his budget than his jokes when delivering it he might not have messed it up seemed to be a popular view. The Tory party isn’t working as a team was an obvious angle. May has no idea what Spreadsheet Phil is doing but she goes along with it because she’s a woman and mostly it’s easier than arguing – most probably what many thought but wouldn’t dare say. At least it gives The Now Show something other than Trump to work with. Silver linings.
But the other side is from me the person who, together with my business partner, is just trying to get on in ‘entrepreneurial Britain’ and sees any reversal of the budget decisions that seemed to penalise people like us as a Good Thing. We had the business rates bombshell and we had the tax-free dividend disaster so frankly any climb down on NIC for self-employed, whilst embarrassing for the Tories, was music to my ears.
I can’t help thinking that if we, as PR people, just take ourselves out of our little bubble for a minute we’d see that probably most people would agree with that. Of all my self-employed friends and colleagues, not one of them expressed anything other than relief and a will to just move on.
It’s worrying that when we are approximately 3 minutes away from truly living with the decision that will leave us adrift on the island of British supremacy we are worried about the chief bean counter owning up to a bad decision. I don’t know about you but no FD I’ve ever known has bothered much about what people think, so it doesn’t surprise me that Hammond couldn’t really care less. The fact he doesn’t appear to care less about what his leader has promised the entrepreneurs of our great nation is another discussion all together.
But there’s something far bigger under all this media sniping and pundit opinion and that’s honesty. Let’s face it we were all a bit blindsided by a politician who basically said ‘sorry I got it wrong’. Doesn’t happen that often, or if it does it’s generally too late to fix as we saw with David Cameron’s bright idea to have the EU Referendum.
We tell our clients to be transparent and honest. We tell them to behave with humanity and humility. We advise them to respond to a crisis with integrity. To say sorry and fix the problem as quickly as possible. Do we then say to them that if they follow our instructions they will have lost credibility? No we don’t. We say they will look honest and human and people are always minded to forgive people who own up.
So I guess the long and short of this is that I do forgive him for his u-turn’, afterall there’s nothing really to forgive is there. But I don’t forgive him for all the other ways in which he makes life just a little bit harder for people like me as we prepare to exit the EU and find our feet in this Brave New World. I can’t help but think this budget was almost heaven sent as a PR tool; it could have been used to bring the underdogs of British industry on-side, to genuinely make us stronger. But the real impact of this budget in a post-Brexit UK remains to be seen.