PROFILE: A political animal - Dr Ian Twinn, Director of Public Affairs ISBA

Images from the night the Tories lost the 1997 general election still linger: Goldsmith taunting Mellor; Blair triumphant at the Festival Hall; and for many the defining moment of the night, the defeat of Michael Portillo.

Images from the night the Tories lost the 1997 general election

still linger: Goldsmith taunting Mellor; Blair triumphant at the

Festival Hall; and for many the defining moment of the night, the defeat

of Michael Portillo.

Dr Ian Twinn, the new director of public affairs at the Incorporated

Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) has better reason than many to

remember Portillo’s humbling. He was Conservative MP for the

neighbouring seat of Edmonton, and his own political demise took place

the same night, at the same count. It had always looked likely. Twinn’s

majority in Edmonton was just 500. He was buried by an avalanche that

gave the new Labour MP an 18,000 majority.

It was an emphatic end to his 14 years as an MP for the marginal seat,

and one that has, in the short-term at least, necessitated a career

change for the 48-year-old. Now he is putting his political skills to

use for the country’s advertisers. His new role will allow him to

exploit his parliamentary contacts and lobbying skills on behalf of ISBA

and its members.

It is a wide-ranging job spec, requiring an equal ability at schmoozing

and mastering large volumes of paperwork, plus an insider’s

understanding of how the process of government actually works.

But is Twinn, a man who occupied the back benches for his entire

Westminster career, the sort of political animal needed to protect the

interests of British advertisers against the encroaching red tape of


In the flesh, he is personable and emollient, with just a whiff of the

professional politician’s theatricality. When you consider that he

joined the Commons in the same intake as a certain Tony Blair, it’s fair

to say his career was less than meteoric.

However, not even the Commons is full of generals; just like in any

organisation, you need plenty of poor bloody infantry. Besides, Twinn

had a time-consuming highly-marginal constituency to nurse.

His party workers retain fond memories. Audrey Stacey, vice-chairman of

Edmonton Conservative Association, describes Twinn as: ’An extremely

good constituency MP, always available to help out, and always working

hard. I can’t fault him - he did everything we asked of him.’ She adds

that he’s a tough-minded Euro-sceptic who speaks his mind.

Lobbying will be the main part of his new job, whispering in the ears of

MPs and civil servants in London, and MEPs and Eurocrats in Brussels and

Strasbourg. Twinn will concentrate on two sets of issues.

The first are things the ISBA wants to change. The main ones are the low

knowledge levels most legislators have of the importance of advertising

to UK plc, and the future of TV, especially in the light of the renewal

of the BBC’s charter in 2002.

The second are areas where ISBA wants to fight its corner for its 320

members. Advertising to children looks set to come under pressure from

the Swedish presidency of the EU in 2001. Our Nordic friends view the

targeting of ads at kids under 12 as immoral, and they want to prevent

child actors appearing. ’The industry as a whole has got to be aware of

things coming out of Brussels,’ cautions Twinn.

The battle over tobacco advertising is largely lost, but ISBA is ready

to fight for freedom in alcohol ads . The French ban on drinks

advertising is a thinly-disguised protectionist measure for its wine

industry, but ISBA wants to blast this open for UK advertisers.

Twinn says he is still investigating many of the issues that threaten

the freedom of advertisers, but is adamant that a light regulatory touch

is what’s needed: ’There’s always a temptation for politicians to

regulate,’ says Twinn, ’but my instinct is to allow people to regulate


Twinn still retains political ambitions. He turns up at local events,

and the word is he has his sights on Portillo’s old seat.

Ironically for someone currently fighting back the Eurocrats, he is also

number five on the Tory list of prospective London MEPs for the 1999

European elections.

However the Tories would have to get 50% of the London vote for him to

go to Brussels. So the chances are he’ll be at the ISBA for a while


ISBA director-general John Hooper believes Twinn will help protect the

freedom of British advertisers.

’The decision I took was that ISBA and its members needed someone who

would get us through doors and on to a higher plane. I am a simple

marketing guy, not a lobby insider.’



Town planning lecturer, South Bank Polytechnic


Conservative MP, Edmonton


Parliamentary private secretary Peter Morrison, DTI, Energy


PPS David Trippier, Environment


PPS Sir John Cope, Treasury


Director of public affairs, Incorporated Society of British Advertisers.


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