Blog post: A self-inflicted PR Crisis for David Cameron

David Cameron, having better weeks…

I thought David Cameron used to work in PR?? I have to wonder how effective he was as he has handled this week’s crisis like an amateur.

This week it has been all about the Panama papers, and revelations about his late father’s tax affairs.

As with so many badly handled PR crisis, this one is about what wasn’t said, not what actually happened. Four days, five statements from the Prime Minister and his office, and all left more questions unanswered and the issue not dealt with.

The key to handling a crisis is to get as much appropriate information out as quickly as possible. Withholding information, trying to hide it or, even worse, lying is never a wise course of action. The truth will come out, and that becomes the story.

For Cameron, on Monday when it all kicked off, he should have come out and fully disclosed his involvement in his father’s scheme. If he had openly disclosed that he had cashed in shares, benefiting from a reduced tax burden, back in 2010, it is more than likely that the story would have moved on by now. He would have received some criticism for benefiting, but it would have been a six-year-old story, which would have quickly run out of column inches.

But instead, he tried to avoid his involvement, and released a series of statements that deliberately tried to hide it. Each one was written to try and close the issue, stop the questions, but once journalists sense blood, they are going to keep digging until they get to the truth.

So now Cameron has to face not only benefiting from off shore tax havens, and also questions about trying to hide it. And more often than not, it is the trying to hide that causes the reputational damage, and that is certainly the case here.

I don’t know if this will finish off the Prime Minister, but it will probably hasten his exit.

And this one is entirely self-inflicted.

I’m following this story from a short city break in New York, so will write a more detailed response to this crisis in a few days.


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