In his brilliant book on modern journalism, Nick Davies demonstrates how PR firms manage to get spurious stories reported around the globe as no one has the time to check them out. I found a case of flat earth news in action when Insurance Times asked me to write this article on the apparent threat of burglars using social networking sites to plan their robberies. Insurer Legal & General had released a report co-authored with a celebrity “burglar” which had been covered by national newspapers and websites around the world. But despite the fact that Legal & General’s director of underwriting had been quoted widely discussing charging householders with teenagers more for their insurance, he couldn’t provide any evidence of this actually happening. Neither could the celebrity burglar, a veteran of numerous PR campaigns since he went straight 20 years ago. (What exactly are the CPD requirements for burglars?) And neither were any of the police forces I contacted or the Home Office aware of it either. It turns out the whole thing was the idea of Legal & General’s PR company, Fishburn Hedges.
Insurance Times’ Lobby series concluded with my look at what new legislation the European Commission was planning to throw at insurers. The answer, I found, is an awful lot, on everything from financial regulation to anti-discrimination. UK politicians may talk a good game but they have little to do the rules that really govern the way businesses work – and how much we pay in premiums. And our leaders will have even less influence if they’re hanging out with far-right fringe groups, rather than people like Merkel and Sarkozy.
Finally! The Tories have outlined some policies. They weren’t quite so forthcoming last week when I was trying to find out exactly what they were going to do about some rather arcane areas of interest to insurers, for Insurance Times’ lobby series. But I did get to speak to some of the less familiar faces on their front bench, including their go-to man for motor insurance, Robert Goodwill. Eurosceptic steam-train enthusiast Goodwill has a model engine with livery that says “Keep The Pound” – could anything BE more Tory?