You cannot work for a party’s press operation and not have your fair share of disasters. During my time working for the Liberal Democrats, our party leader pontificated about his colleagues on a plane, made the odd unfortunate sartorial decision (the ‘double-fleece look’ being the example that aroused the most incredulity in the office) and there were gaffes, snubs, rows and all the other unfortunate moments that cause former press officers to shake their heads and write smug blogs saying it was all much smoother in their day.
These things happen in politics, and when the media has tasted blood, there is often nothing you can do. But I have never seen such a concentrated period of haplessness as we have at the start of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. This isn’t about policy or politics, this is the basic stuff of looking efficient: announce news in good time, don’t pull out of interviews at the last minute, don’t abandon the leader in the street to cameras, don’t leave out bits of the speech you have already given to journalists, make sure hacks aren’t listening to your meeting, the list goes on.
WATCH: #Corbyn not having great luck with cameras at the moment. pic.twitter.com/fK5iysQVJM
— Darren McCaffrey (@DMcCaffreySKY) September 15, 2015
Anyone who has worked in a party press office learns these lessons pretty quickly either from colleagues, friendly advice from journalists or bitter experience. This isn’t even the sort of thing an Alastair Campbell style spin doctor can solve (although the Guardian is right that Corbyn needs one). That kind of senior role focuses on the art of strategy and briefing. Right now, what Jeremy Corbyn needs is simply a press officer to make sure he turns up at speeches when his name is announced and says what he is meant to say.
The Labour party has press officers – lots of them – and they are good at their jobs.