At the age of 77, and after a career marked by heroic rates of cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, Tim Bell, former PR guru to Margaret Thatcher and a host of other politicians, some less savoury than others, has died. He has been the subject of some appallingly fawning obituaries, many of which have missed out his penchant for sexual exhibitionism, in favour of talking up his role in Mrs T’s successes.
Tim Bell. With his clothes on. Not in the bathroom
As the BBC has reported, “The spin doctor responsible for the famous ‘Labour isn't working’ poster during Margaret Thatcher's general election campaign has died aged 77. Lord Tim Bell was surrounded by his family when he died following a ‘prolonged illness', said close friend and business partner Piers Pottinger. The poster was regarded as having made a key contribution to Mrs Thatcher's general election triumph in 1979”.
The “prolonged illness” was Parkinson’s Disease, and the famous poster was a text-book example of pitching a blatantly false premise: unemployment may have exceeded one million under the Callaghan Government, but that of Margaret Thatcher, wooed by the false prospectus of Milton Friedman, soon had the total well over three millions, where it remained for several years - as in far too many years.
That BBC report continues “Lord Bell co-founded the public relations firm Bell Pottinger, which went into administration in 2017. Mr Pottinger described Lord Bell as a ‘pioneer in political communication … He was a devoted family man and passionate supporter of the Conservative Party, most famously helping Margaret Thatcher win three general elections,’ he added”. Pottinger did not mention those less savoury clients.
The Guardian has mentioned them, though: “he also became deeply involved in the reputation-laundering of dictatorships and others such as the Pinochet Foundation and the governments of Bahrain and Egypt … A cloud was cast over the end of his career when Bell Pottinger, the company he had run for 28 years, was closed down in 2017 after an inquiry found it breached ethical principles in South Africa, where it ran a secret campaign to stir up racial tension on behalf of billionaire clients”. Principles? Who needs them, eh?
That report also mentions some of the fawning: “Conor Burns, minister of state at the Department for International Trade, described Bell as a ‘communications genius’ who put his talent to great use by helping Thatcher communicate her message”. Well, creepy Conor would say that, wouldn’t he? He wouldn’t mention the wanking, though.
The Mail, of all papers, tries to skirt round Bell’s conviction under the Vagrancy Act: “an even an insane moment when he famously flashed women walking below his bathroom window in 1977”. But that fails to do justice to what actually happened. As an earlier biography of Bell explains, “In the early hours of 21 October 1977 … Bell stood naked in the bathroom of his second-floor flat at 13c West Heath Road, overlooking Hempstead Heath, and exposed himself to several women while masturbating”.
He was duly convicted under the provisions of the Vagrancy Act 1824. Today’s eulogies manage not to mention the detail of that unfortunate incident. So I will.
Lord Tim Bell was a real-life Bell And Cranker. And an upstanding public figure. As it were.
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