When Johnny (aka Prince Harry) Comes Marching Home

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Filed under: Publicity Stunts, Spin

Harry’s tour dismissed as ‘failed stunt’ by PR guru
Public won’t be fooled by ‘virtual reality’ deployment, says Clifford

by Sam Marsden
Independent.ie
March 2, 2008

Top publicist Max Clifford yesterday launched a broadside at Prince Harry’s tour of duty in Afghanistan. Clifford said the tour was a “PR stunt” that has not fooled the public.

AP Video:

The Household Cavalry officer’s 10-week deployment to the frontline in Helmand Province was “virtual reality” because army chiefs would have kept him away from real danger, the PR guru claimed.

It will not change British public opinion about Harry as people reflect that there are thousands of ordinary British troops serving in Afghanistan without receiving the same special treatment, Mr Clifford added.

“To me it’s blatantly obvious. It’s a PR stunt, the whole thing has been put together,” he said.

“The climate when he went out, (he) was getting increasing bad publicity from hanging around in clubs and pubs, and coming out drunk.

“It happened immediately after that. I don’t think you’re cynical for saying, ‘hold on a minute’ … I think that most discerning people see it as a pure public relations exercise.”

Mr Clifford continued: “(The press coverage) has been favourable, but I do think that the public are maybe a bit more questioning than the media have been in this instance.

“A lot of people have been saying, if he was Private Harry Smith, would he have been looked after in the same way and how much of this was just a public relations exercise?”

The publicist said Harry was “a brave lad” and the public perception of him was “pretty good generally”.

But he went on: “I don’t think that they would have dared to put him in real danger.

“The other aspect of it is he’s been shown firing a machine gun at Muslims. What does that say?

“He becomes a big target. Harry likes to go to clubs and pubs — does that make them targets? It’s not black and white, it’s not a simple situation.”

But the publicist does not think there will be a backlash against the media for keeping news of Harry’s deployment secret. “That’s easily defused — it would have placed him and others in danger,” he said.

Meanwhile, Harry returned home yesterday after being pulled out of the frontline because defence officials feared worldwide coverage of his deployment with the British Army could endanger him and his fellow soldiers.

The prince flew back to the Royal Air Force base at Brize Norton in central England to be greeted by his father, Prince Charles, and brother, Prince William.

The 23-year-old, wearing body armour and a green camouflage jacket, ignored television news crews and photographers as he walked across the tarmac chatting to a colleague.

Harry, the second son of the late Princess Diana, was the first British royal to see combat since his uncle, Prince Andrew, flew helicopters during the Falklands War 25 years ago.

Charles, speaking after being reunited with his younger son, said: “I feel particular frustration that he was removed unexpectedly early because, apart from anything else, he had been looking forward to coming back with the rest of his regiment.

“With Harry’s own plane coming back just now they had to stop and drop off three badly wounded people who had been blown up by mines and it brings home just how hazardous it is.”

Harry was bitterly disappointed last year that his planned deployment to Iraq was cancelled after militant groups there threatened to kidnap or kill him.

Harry confessed he had contemplated quitting the army.