Don's Diary

October 26, 2001

Week one

I fly to Dublin for the annual Political Marketing Conference of the Academy of Marketing at the Dublin City University Business School. We find out that the Californian referendum business has a turnover of more than $500 million (£352 million) a year. I wonder what the total spend in the euro campaign will be?

The next day I take part in the Today Show on Radio Telefis Eireann with professors Bruce Newman of Chicago and Nicholas O'Shaughnessy of Keele on United States elections and the decline of the Tory Party.

Week two

Returning from a Chartered Institute of Marketing Council meeting via Edinburgh Airport on the afternoon of September 11, I watch on television scenes of carnage in New York and Washington. That night Steve Morrison, CEO of Granada Media, speaks at our Cobden lecture on communication in the digital age.

I arrive in Brighton for the Political Science Association Conference on the general election. Philip Gould, Tony Blair's pollster, presents how the master plan worked. It is generally agreed that the Liberal Democrats are improving because they focus on voter needs. The Tories do not show up because of the imminent reshuffle after the election of Iain Duncan Smith.

Week three

I now know that all key colleagues and friends in New York and Washington are OK. The fresh-faced new undergraduates arrive. I spend time working on a special US edition of the Journal of Public Affairs with John Mahon of Maine.

Week four

I am in Bournemouth for Charles Kennedy's speech on the war against terror and its impact on civic society. Colours and lighting in the conference hall reflect the subdued mood of the delegates.

I fly to Brussels for the launch of the JPA in Europe, sponsored by the European Centre for Public Affairs. We reflect on those in the public affairs industry who have lost their lives.

Week five

I make it to Brighton in time for Tony Blair's inspired keynote speech. Delegates and others look fearful for the outbreak of war. Police officers are everywhere, many with body armour and semi-automatic weapons. The best stand is that of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, which has Rodin's Thinker outlining how one can enable the disabled. The scale of the exhibition, however, does give the conference the air of a large trade show.

Week six

Another train, this time to Blackpool to see IDS in action, only to find half the directorate of the BBC in one carriage. The Winter Gardens seems very empty. The backdrop of the conference is blue with a bright candelabra-lit podium, making everybody seem very old. I notice an anxious Michael Ancram, looking for journalists to talk to in the tiny press area. Anti and pro-euro campaigns are highly visible in the exhibition. Security appears a little excessive.

Phil Harris is chairman of the Academy of Marketing and a reader in marketing and public affairs at The Business School, Manchester Metropolitan University.

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