Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Laurie Taylor

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Laurie Taylor

Article excerpt

Yes, I too have taken brown envelopes. But the New Statesman has put an end to that

It may subvert the cuddly left-liberal political credibility that I've been subtly cultivating in this column for the past few years, but a conjunction of events makes me realise that now is the moment when I must stand up and admit to having regularly accepted a number of well-stuffed brown envelopes for services rendered to the commanding heights of capitalism.

The whole sordid business began five years ago, when a former broadcasting colleague called Jason suddenly broke off from a self-serving monologue about how much better he was doing in the City than at the BBC to ask if I had any interest at all in Marmite. It seemed an odd digression, but all professional broadcasters are trained to switch from the consequential to the inconsequential in less time than it takes to say "And finally", so I was happy to provide Jason with a broad-brush account of my long love affair with the popular vegetarian spread.

I'd barely reached late childhood and the exquisite pleasure of picnicking on grease-proofed Marmite sandwiches when Jason interrupted to say that I sounded like the ideal person for the job. It was, he explained, all about advertising. Major companies committed themselves to one advertiser for a limited period of time; when that time was up, other advertisers were allowed to pitch for the account. This meant that there was a constant stream of people desperately seeking material of any kind that might just help them with their next presentation. "All you have to do is sit on your own sofa at home, stare into a video camera and talk sociological guff for 20 minutes. When it's over, the producer helps you to the kitchen with the empty coffee cups and slips you a brown envelope containing [pounds]200."

I'm ashamed to say that I've not looked back since. …

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