Asda Wal-Mart, Tim Allan, Portland PR and the GMB

PR Week’s diary column carried an interesting snippet that I think deserves far greater attention. It reports that Portland PR, the firm set-up by ex-Downing Street aide Tim Allan, has been engaged in some appalling activity.

On behalf of its client Leeds-based Asda, owned by the notorious anti-employee Wal-mart, it ran a vicious anti-trade union campaign that was described by an employment tribunal as "highly disparaging of the process of collective bargaining". The tribunal made a ¬£850,000 judgment against Asda. Doesn’t seem Portland did a very good job on that one does it?

I’m a big believer in ethical business. It is my personal mantra. I strongly believe that their is nothing incompatible with running your own business, even a PR company!, and being a good democratic socialist.

And then you get people like Tim Allan. What does he think he was playing at? GMB general secretary Paul Kenny told PR Week "If ever there was a reason for MPs to look at what people like Allan get up to, this is it. He is giving PR a bad name."

I personally hope that Tim doesn’t have the brass neck to be a member of the Labour Party. In fact that’s a very interesting question as rule 2A.8 of the Labour Party rule book states that "No member of the party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NCC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NCC is grossly detrimental to the party."

Engaging in this sort of unethical trade union bashing campaigning certainly appears to me to be "grossly detrimental to the party".

Rule 2A.6 (b) states that a member should  "if applicable, be a member of a trade union affiliated to the Trade Union Congress or considered by the NEC as a bona fide trade union and contribute to the political fund of that union (a person who does not contribute to the political fund of her/ his trade union may not be an individual member of the party)".

I’m guessing that the people involved in the Portland PR campaign would probably also be breaching their own trade union’s membership rules.

In a recently leaked memo Tim Allan advised his ex-employer BSkyB that it was important to tap into his Labour contacts such as Tessa Jowell, Gordon Brown, David Milliband, Ruth Kelly, Alan Johnson and Alistair Darling. I’m not sure that any of these would look to highly on an invite from Portland PR any more.

Cross posted to Stuart’s Soapbox.

Stuart Bruce

International Public Relations Adviser | Trainer | Author | Media Commentator | Conference Speaker | University Lecturer | Online PR | Digital Corporate Communications | Crisis Communications | Digital Public Affairs