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Meet Phorm's PR genius

As used by Aitken, Goldsmith, Pinochet

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Your reporter's reaction to Phorm's publishing of a delusional attack blog this week was one of confusion: what troubled mind could have fathered such a downright weird attempt at rebuttal?

We're indebted this morning, then, to The Guardian's Charles Arthur, who today reveals Stopphoulplay.com was the idea of a new "adviser" to Phorm named Patrick Robertson.

Hmm. This couldn't be the same Patrick Robertson who first came to prominence in 1995 as the technologically-challenged spin doctor of arms dealing perjurer Jonathan Aitken MP, could it? That Patrick Robertson had a little trouble operating his fax machine, and his collywobbles about his boss' political prospects found their way into the papers.

That was, of course, after Aitken and his public relations people had launched another famous attempted rebuttal, promising to remove "the cancer of bent and twisted journalism". The ex-Chief Secretary to the Treasury ended up in prison instead.

And this couldn't be the same Patrick Robertson who went on to run the PR operation for right wing billionaire Sir James Goldsmith's Referendum Party, could it? The party contested the 1997 general election on a single issue platform of crazed warnings of an imminent "federal European super-state".

Well, Phorm's public image has had a bit of bother from the European Commission, so it would sort of make sense.

And this couldn't be the same "PR guru" Patrick Robertson who orchestrated the £200,000 campaign by Tory grandees against the extradition of ex-Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, could it?

In 1998 a Spanish judge asked Britain to send Pinochet over for a chat about the thousands of dissidents who were "disappeared" under his bloody rule. This didn't go down well with Thatcher-era Tories, who viewed him as a fellow free marketeer, and were grateful for his support of the war in the Falklands, which saved their collective skin in the 1983 general election.

Among those prominent Pinochet-defenders? Give us a wave, Phorm chairman Norman Lamont.

And look, here's the former Chancellor of the Exchequer talking up the Bruges Group, a Eurosceptic think tank set up by Robertson in the 1980s.

But surely all this can't be the work of Stopphoulplay.com's Patrick Robertson? Unbelievably, yes it can.

Phorm told The Register: "Phorm Inc. hired Patrick Robertson in June 2008 to advise the company on its global communications strategy.

"Patrick has worked for many distinguished clients over the years, including Sir James Goldsmith, and we are pleased to have him on board. Patrick does not claim credit for launching Stopphoulplay but wholeheartedly supports the initiative."

What an interesting career. ®

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