Orange PR blogger row grows

My Inigo Wilson post has triggered a huge response. It’s revealing that most of those repeating Wilson’s more offensive views have done so via email, rather than in the comments. Just for clarity I have not deleted any comments that support Wilson and will not do so. What I might do is edit them to remove racist, sexist, homophobic or similar language.

Most of the defenders of Inigo Wilson appear to be missing the points I was trying to make. I’m all for free speech and that you should be free to say whatever you want, within the law, and since I’m not a lawyer I can’t really pass judgement. It is also irrelevant how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ the Muslim Public Affairs Council is – it is what is being said that matters, not who is saying it.

The crux of the matter is Wilson’s job. He is the community affairs manager for Orange. Community affairs is a huge issue for mobile phone companies as communities up and down the land object to mobile phone masts being built in inappropriate places. This includes 100s of ethnically and culturally diverse communities such as Beeston in south Leeds. As a local councillor I was frequently on the receiving end of the community relations efforts of mobile phone companies. Some were OK, some less so and none were outstanding.

He cannot possibly do his job if he holds extremist views, or if he doesn’t understand that expressing them – even in jest – will cause offence. Community affairs requires sensitivity and an understanding of the people you are working with. A community affairs manager is a company’s public persona and it therefore is of concern if his publicly expressed opinions are totally at odds with the company’s corporate values, which in Orange’s case include believing “the success of any company lies in the quality, commitment and diversity of its people”.

A community affairs manager is also usually responsible for community consultation regarding the new mobile phone masts sites. It is therefore alarming that Inigo Wilson says “Consultation - a formal system for ignoring public views while patronising them at the same time.” Even if you are charitable enough to ignore his racist comments, then this one alone highlights his unsuitability for doing the job he is employed to.

It’s his unsuitability for public relations or community affairs which is the reason why Orange had to act as it did and it’s nothing to do with curtailing free speech or bowing down to pressure from MPAC.

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