Friday 7 February 2014

The Weekly Wrap Up: The Power of Press Strikes Again

This week saw the Capital resist grinding to a halt as the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) Union conducted a 48 hour strike, led by leader Bob Crow, in response to fears that Transport for London would be cutting almost 1000 jobs.

As one would expect, the strike had a massive effect; delays were reported across the City as commuters and travellers alike struggled to conduct their daily routines with such an "essential service" take away from them.

Strikes have long been used by Unions as the method for giving a voice to the people and drawing attention to an issue. It could be argued, therefore, that strikes are (by any other definition) a PR stunt, welcoming the flies of press to the churning honey-pot of an issue.

If this was the intention of the out-spoken and opinionated Bob Crow, then the Tube Strikes could be argued to have been a a success. The story made every national paper, and inspired the reaction of the entire UK government.

Take Wednesday morning, for example. Whilst the Mayor was giving press interviews on the topic outside Embankment station, Bob Crow and Manuel Cortes, Leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, were busy giving interviews to the BBC. Considering the questions that the platform that the pair were both given to publicly air their views, one might suggest that this press coverage could be described as the result of a PR stunt well executed.

But was this press coverage the right kind of coverage, and did it have the desired effect of portraying Transport for London (and the City of London) in a negative light?

The evening papers of Thursday reported the story with a surprising, and refreshing, amount of optimism: The Mayor of London was reported to have said that “nothing I have seen in the last two days is going to change (his opinion)”, whilst Iain Duncan Smith was discussed as vowing to stop benefits for strikers saying that “its madness that the current benefit system compensates workers when they go on strike”.

Friday also dawned incredibly brightly on the topic, with City AM reporting that although the strike could occur again next week, 91% of Oyster users had “defied” the strike by finding alternative methods of Transport.

The Guardian’s live-feed on the issue reported that in response to the strikes commuters had taken to their bikes bike, causing the number of bike-users to jump 70% during the two-day tube-halt. These bikers proudly and publicly broadcasted their activity with the use of the #bikethestrike tag-line of Twitter; a demonstration of a community not to be defeated.

Twitter, the new digital voice of the people, was also conveying a positive vibe about the strike with Hannah Cox writing on Thursday morning tweeting a (#Instagram) picture of the Thames with the caption: “What a difference a day makes! Gorgeous journey in wandering along the Thames... #london #walkingin #tubestrike”

This positivity wouldn’t appear to have been what Bob Crow and his fellow strikers were aiming for. As opposed to drumming up anger and dissatisfaction in the British population, it seems to have inspired feelings of stoical defiance in the Capital’s nation.

And how much of this was influenced by the media’s coverage of this strike? The positive communications that we have seen resulting from the full spectrum of the nation’s press, from right to left and west to east, indicates a press that did not just choose to give free publicity (and thus support) to those making a negative, political stand, but to give a full critique.

There is no doubt that journalism holds a sway over the way that the public thinks. Had this morning’s papers reported misery, turmoil and defeat, the public could well have reacted accordingly and buckled under the pressure. However, having been exposed to such optimism, it seems that the City of London has accordingly chosen not to be scuppered by such set-backs and to “find alternative means of transport”.

As one commuter reflecting on the Guardian’s strike coverage said: “this just goes to show the true power of journalism”.

Who needs public transport to get out and about in London? Abchaps certainly don’t! We walked, cycled and even went a little bit à la 007, setting sail on ‘The Clipper’ boat service to ensure we were at the City's top events, including the Moore Black Solicitors drinks event. The South England solicitors put on a fantastic evening, providing an excellent networking opportunity for all attendees.

When solace was sought from the ever-increasing mayhem down on the City’s streets, a number of influential City figures took refuge at our 125 Old Broad Street office when we hosted one of our popular ‘Market Lunches’. And, in a week when Northern companies had hit the headlines with their strong financial performances, we thought it was only apt for our Leeds office to also hosted a luncheon. Plenty of deals are clearly in the pipeline for our advisers "t’up north", and it was great to hear our guests' views on sector drivers and trends as we begin to buckle up for what looks set to be an exciting 2014.

Two City law firms take the spotlight with new appointments this week. Firstly, White & Case took on Inigo Esteve as a partner in its UK equity capital markets practice to focus on IPOs and secondary share issuances. Secondly, Baker McKenzie hired Julian Thurston to its pharmaceutical and healthcare team as a consultant.

Accounting and advisory firm Mazars made two new partner appointments: Hugh Mathew-Jones and David Dearman. They both join the forensic and investigation services division. Similarly, the two of them make the move across from previous employer, PKF.

Our client Lighthouse Group unfortunately loses its skilled development director Andrew Snowball to the wealth management company Rowan Dartington. Rowan has been appointed as the Company’s business relationship director and brings with him.

"Grass-roots Lobbying": Lobbying with the involvement of specific communities so as to reach legislature and make a difference in the decision-making process.

February is upon us and Spring is almost(!) in the air. So, if you’re bored by this week’s rain and blustery storms, head over to Kew or Chelsea Garden’s for some seasonal, floral uplift. This weekend the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew will be celebrating the tropical splendour that is the Orchid, whilst Chelsea Physic Garden has its annual snowdrop extravaganza Snowdrops Days. They’re a must do for all horticultural enthusiasts.

The London LGBT community can gather together and party like no other at the first ever Winter Pride UK. Held at Tobacco Dock, there is space for 3,000 people to rave it up with exclusive fire dancers and the biggest LGBT club brands, to the sounds of international DJs, including One Love, Exilio, Work and East Bloc.

If tube strikes don’t get in the way of Londoners getting about their daily business, surely a broken nose won’t hold Jonny May back when it comes to winging his way to the tryline! Of course, it’s Six Nations time again: Saturday sees Ireland take on Wales at 2:30pm, England hopefully smash Scotland at 5pm and France challenge Ireland at 3pm in Round 2 on Sunday.

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