If you ever wanted an example of how a story can capture the imagination and go from a filler to a front page headline then look no further than ‘Pastygate’.
The application of VAT to currently exempt baked to cool categories (sausage rolls, Cornish pasties etc) went relatively unnoticed in the budget itself, but when George Osbourne admitted he couldn’t recall the last time he ate a pasty it suddenly became a battle of the classes.
Lesson learned by David Cameron – or was it?
When confronted by the same question Cameron was in no doubt about his last pasty, it was from the West Cornwall Pasty Company store at Leeds Station.
On delivering this news he even joked that The Sun was probably dispatching a reporter there to get full details as he spoke, a gag that backfired hours later when it transpired that the store in question had closed five years earlier.
Now here I must declare a vested interest in this story – we represent West Cornwall Pasty Company and were handling the story for them. And while it was certainly good positioning to be labeled ‘David Cameron’s favourite pasty company’ it was an ill judged decision from the PM.
Mr Cameron was clearly advised to show he was ‘connected’ to the issue, and the truth is he probably does like a pasty. But his obsession with the detail of the anecdote has yet again proved to be his undoing.
And opposition leader Ed Milliband wasn’t far behind him in the queue for obvious brownie point scoring – his photoshoot purchasing sausage rolls at Greggs was cringe-worthy to say the least.
And the annoying thing is that none of this has done anything to inform the British public of the pros and cons of the argument, or allow people the opportunity to voice their opinion.
How can that be good PR?
* Dan Clifford is head of PR at WAA