Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

In Running for Success with Short Skirt

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

In Running for Success with Short Skirt

Article excerpt


MY first job in public relations was in a 17th Century building just off London's Fleet Street, where the nation's newspapers were then still based.

Every day, at a civilised mid-morning hour, I would watch a fat old man in a pin-striped suit, with a fresh flower in his buttonhole, wheezing up the alleyway to his desk at the rival PR firm opposite.

There I imagine that he drank a cup of coffee and flicked through the morning's press cuttings before puffing back to El Vino's for a three-hour lunch, swiftly followed by an early train home. He struck me as the archetypal City PR man and the ideal role model for my own career.

We did a lot of drinking in my office back then; and a lot of smoking, too, when we could find time among the main work of flirting and blatantly sexual badinage.

We recruited our female assistants (and they always were assistants rather than executives in the early 1980s) entirely for their looks. I am ashamed to confess that I once appointed as my PA a blonde air hostess with no secretarial qualifications whatsoever, solely on the strength of her brilliantly satisfactory response to the question: "Have you got a boyfriend?"

Similarly unreconstructed City types used to amuse themselves with a riddle about three equally highly qualified candidates for a position. Which one got the job? The one with the biggest breasts, ho ho.

These memories of the distant past were brought crashing back by the hugely entertaining case of that Wear Valley councillor whose career seemed to be on the line after he described three of the council's officers as "nice bits of stuff".

The fact that he is also the "equalities and diversity champion" of the council made it almost too good to be true.

I particularly relished the readers' comments on the story posted on one national newspaper's website, where a series of predictable rants about "political correctness gone mad" vied for attention with the gloriously cruel one-liner: "The guy needs a new pair of glasses. …

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