Prime Minister David Cameron sent out identikit press releases to a number of regional newspapers extolling the virtues of the local countryside on the same day he was engaged in talks about the migrant crisis.
The comments from Cameron was apparently intended to be used as a bylined column.
Yorkshire Post comment editor Tom Richmond called the PM’s bluff after his newsdesk received a phone call from a Number 10 press officer pitching a “very personal” piece on English Tourism Week “at the very moment Mr Cameron was on Sky News embroiled in talks with EU leaders”.
In an editorial piece, Richmond said the media operation had been “insincere – some would say a sham” coming as it did after a period of devastating flooding in the county.
He added: “When the column did arrive, doubts quickly surfaced – it appeared very formulaic, lacked empathy and only made passing reference to the misery caused by the Yorkshire floods.”
The Post chose to hold the story after seeing similarly worded articles from Cameron appearing in The Herald, Plymouth, The Newcastle Chronicle, the Lincolnshire Echo and the Eastern Daily Press, Norfolk.
Richmond said: “This is not personal – it has all the hallmarks of a carpet-bomb PR drop that The Yorkshire Post is wise to, and that Mr Cameron is almost certainly unaware of.”
He added: “It would have been a disservice to our readers to give the Prime Minister such a platform when so many homes, businesses and tourist destinations, the latest being Jorvik Viking Centre and the iconic Settle to Carlisle railway, are paying such a high price for the floods.”
Number 10 has declined to comment.
The full press release from the Prime Minister:
I love Yorkshire & the Humber. From the historic city of York to the glorious countryside, this county is one of the many jewels in Great Britain’s crown.
It’s no wonder it attracts more than one million visits by international tourists every year, and I’ve been there myself when I went to see the Tour de Yorkshire. This week is English Tourism Week and it is a time to celebrate all that our country has to offer. But it’s also a chance for us to build on that.
Let me give you one shocking fact: for all the money that is spent by international tourists in our country, half is spent in London. That means there are millions of visitors who come to Britain and never leave the M25; thousands who never get to experience places like York Minster or Fountains Abbey.
This is wrong. Tourism is so important to our country. It creates jobs – 199,000 in this county alone. It boosts growth and attracts investment. We want the benefits of this vibrant industry to be spread more evenly across the country, so prosperity and opportunities aren’t just concentrated in London.
That’s why we brought in a whole new approach, set out in my Five Point Plan for tourism. We have already taken some important steps, like making the visa process easier for tourists. We are investing in infrastructure – improving our roads and railways – to make it easier for tourists to travel beyond London.
And we have increased investment for our international campaign to shout about Britain. Called GREAT, it takes brand Britain to the furthest corners of the world, urging people to come and visit.
And because of our long-term economic plan to fix our economy, we’ve been able to fund infrastructure and events that support tourism in every region. Take Yorkshire and the Humber. Last month, I announced a £1m post-flood ‘staycation’ campaign to encourage British families to spend their Easter holidays in the county and other flood-hit areas of the North of England.
And there are plenty of other projects being funded to give tourists even more reasons to visit. For example almost £500,000 will be spent ensuring tourism isn’t just limited to the summer by promoting the area around Spurn Point in East Riding as a destination for nature tourism.
The project includes the restoration of the iconic 'Matthew's Lighthouse' as well as the creation of a visitor centre, and the development of good, sustainable transport links to replace those lost in the December 2013 storm surge.
There will also be £452,782 spent enhancing the facilities and visitor experience at the Bempton Cliffs in North Yorkshire. This will make it a year-round attraction to further promote wildlife conservation.
London is one of the most visited cities in the world. That’s fantastic. But our mission is to make people – at home and abroad – look beyond the capital. To look to our beaches and country houses; our theatres and galleries; our festivals and sporting events; to look at the wonders of Yorkshire and the Humber.
It’s good for them; it’s good for us. And it’s another step towards a greater Britain.