Lord Bell of Bell Pottinger
The McCanns paid me £500.000 in fees to keep them on the front pages of every newspaper for a year - which we did
Whether that statement be a matter of fact or a glib passing remark said in anger I cannot say but one thing can't be denied, the McCanns were privileged to unprecedented media coverage after the disappearance of their three year old daughter, Madeleine.
Many take the opinion that the press was, at the time, governed by some supreme power, stifled and forced to report only positive stories in favour of the McCanns. Well, here there is an element of truth and an element of untruth, evidenced by the varying reports published over the months and ensuing years.
The immediate hours and days following Madeleine's alleged disappearance bear witness to the extraordinary extent of protection afforded to the McCann couple, two insignificant people from middle England who were foolish enough to mislay one of their children. Within hours the sleepy little town of Luz on the Portuguese Algarve was swamped with journalists from across the globe, British embassy and consulate staff - including the British Ambassador in person, lawyers representing a variety of aspects of law and a whole host of public relations pundits. That's just the tip of the iceberg but the focal point here is the media.
The McCanns were specifically told by the Portuguese police not to contact the media but it was ignored, they contacted the press within hours of the alleged time of Madeleine McCann's disappearance - Madeleine's eye defect was even used as Gerry McCann thought it a good marketing ploy, despite the possible danger of an abductor harming Madeleine. Their team used the British media to destroy the reputation and life of the Portuguese case coordinator assigned to the investigation into Madeleine McCann's disappearance? Why would they do that- have they no sense of morality, or even fair play?
It could be argued that the Mcanns never personally contacted the media, it could be argued that they were the victims of a mass publicity campaign orchestrated by a hungry press always looking for the main chance. I don't buy it. One thing is certain, they played the victim with little or no thought for their precious little lost daughter - self preservation was always uppermost in their campaign. Is that the sort of behaviour one would expect from a grieving parent? No! They played the life of celebrities, rubbing shoulders with wealth and power, using the media to promote their new found status.
The McCanns were hailed as the victims of an unthinkable tragedy - the loss of a child. They were headhunted by the studio sofas as the perfect photogenic middle class couple caught up in a horrendous situation through no fault of their own, the victims of one of the lurking atrocities of the 21st century - the abduction of your child. There was said to be a race amid the most famous talk show hosts to welcome the McCanns as celebrity guests, a race which afforded the McCanns the unique opportunity to tell their version of the truth to the world via Oprah Winfrey.
So what is it about the British media that keeps the populace coming back for more?
Many people out there can say they personally witnessed a specific event and can thus assure that the situation was not as reported accurately. The neighbour who is portrayed on the verge of death from hypothermia following government cut-backs in winter heating allowance - the very same neighbour you were chatting with over the garden fence the day before, basking in the late winter sun whilst pruning the roses ready for spring. Day by day we are fed total rubbish just to sensationalize every aspect of life and sell copy - a thoroughly despicable situation yet still the public are hungry for more.
The old school still take a walk to the news agents at the crack of dawn, eager for the latest before the ink is even dry, or sat waiting anxiously for the paper to come through the letter box, whilst the more modern generations are fixed on the laptop whilst munching their cornflakes - they all have one thing in common, a lust for the days news.
As a little light relief from being bamboozled by all things Brexit and quaking with the prospect of getting through the day without being shot dead on the street or knocked out by some deadly disease, for some months we have been presented with ripping yarns about that special relationship the wife of Prince Harry, Meghan Markle - the American divorcee, has with her mother-in-law, Her Majesty The Queen of England. Anyone with the vaguest notion about royal protocol knows that Her Majesty does not have special relationships with the likes of Meghan Markle, everything in the royal household is managed with military precision with no room for Ms Markle's party games. Across the pond in the United States of America, an entirely different story is to be told - tales of stop at nothing social climbers who use the rich and influential to advance their social career, tales of one-upmanship, or in this case one-upwomanship.
From what I've seen and read, I'm inclined to lean towards the USA and their version of the truth. The press reports emanating from the UK are clearly an orchestrated public relations exercise, forgiving Ms Markle for her blatant disregard for royal protocol. Poor old Prince Harry, he's big and brave but I think very insecure and vulnerable, looking for love and security - he's hit a bum note I fear.
There can be no reasonable comparison between the McCanns and Ms Markle except a mutual self love and admiration that is entirely dependent on the media to promote their squeaky clean image and save their souls from eternal damnation.
So why is the great British public so ravenous for news every day, knowing full well for the most part it's utter rubbish. Reverting to the media coverage afforded to Gerry and Kate McCann between the beginning of May 2007 up to the present day, if nothing else, the good publicity and the bad publicity has worked to their advantage. I have wondered and still think it a distinct possibility, that the whole charade was designed to prevent a trial before a court of law. All the evidence and intelligence harvested along the way point to the McCann couple being implicated in some way with the disappearance of their own daughter, at some point earlier in the day, two specialist trained dogs were seconded by the UK to assist the Portuguese investigation. The two dogs alerted to very incriminating evidence and although the evidence was never corroborated by forensic analysis, still the evidence is there and the stigma remains.
Again, press coverage of the McCanns probable involvement, fluctuated wildly from one day to the next. The dog alerts were first reported as the McCanns demise until matters were nicely reorganized and focus on the dog alerts drowned by the absence of forensic corroboration.
Tell me, under such circumstances, how can two people ever be put before a court of law on trial for the disappearance of their own daughter? Unfair trial would be declared - surely? How could a jury possibly be neutral having been subjected to conflicting media stories over days, months and years? In a court of law when a judge asks the jury to disregard something said, the learned lawyer knows that to be impossible - it's already been said so how can it be disregarded?
For good or for bad, the British media largely governs and influences our daily lives. We read, we listen, we take notice, we subconsciously store which ultimately shapes our very being for now and the future - even if we don't believe what we read. The establishment control our way of thinking through the media whether we like it or not. One thing for sure, the media is a very powerful force and serve their purpose despite our individual reluctance to be taken in by the fake news they propagate.
To quote Professor Gerald McCann..
"One good thing to come out of all this is that there is so much in the press, no one knows what's true and what isn't"
Never a truer word spoken Professor McCann ....