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Williams' PR firm comes under fire

NEWS STORY
01/03/2011

On Friday it was widely reported that Williams' chairman Adam Parr had said his team would have boycotted the Bahrain Grand Prix if it had not been cancelled. However, what was not so widely reported was the chaos ensuing at virtually the same time at the offices of Williams' PR firm Bell Pottinger as it was stormed by protesters over its work for the Government of Bahrain.

To recap, Parr claimed that "had the Bahrain Grand Prix gone ahead, I don't think we, and in fact I suspect even all the teams, would have gone." He added "it was quite apparent to everybody that we were simply going to make the situation there worse, because we would have been a focal point for demonstrations and unrest."

Parr concluded that "there would have been all the media associated with us there, and therefore I think it would have just been incendiary."

By not turning up at the race the teams would have made a strong statement that they disagreed with the regime in Bahrain where at least seven protesters are known to have been killed. Indeed this was the very reason that Bell Pottinger was stormed, ironically, just as Parr's comments were published.

According to Haymarket's PR Week publication, on Friday morning a small group of protesters appeared outside Bell Pottinger's London offices brandishing placards with slogans such as 'you can't spin the unspinnable'. It caused the main doors of the offices to be closed and employees had to enter by a rear entrance.

Bell Pottinger has reportedly been retained by the Government of Bahrain for two years and in the past week it has taken on extra responsibility handling media centre enquiries about the anti-regime campaign. Bell Pottinger chairman Lord Bell said he felt under no pressure to drop the account following the killings. His explanation was that "we work for the Economic Development board. Whatever happens, the economy has got to grow. We're nothing to do with the constitution, we're nothing to do with Sunnis and Shiites."

It seems unlikely this will placate the protesters in London who reportedly handed out leaflets urging Bell Pottinger to 'drop its business relationship with the murderous Bahraini regime'. According to PR Week, Rupert Read, one of the protesters, said: "we're ashamed that it's the UK that dictators turn to, to represent them. We hope Bell Pottinger is going to think about this and respond positively." He added that further protests would take place if Bell Pottinger did not stop working for Bahrain.

Parr says that Williams would have done the decent thing and boycotted Bahrain if the race had not been cancelled. Time will tell whether the team's PR firm will do the same thing.

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