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John lewis boss' remarks - 'questionable' but 'refreshing' says PR crisis management expert

An expert in crisis management has said that the anti-France remarks of John Lewis managing director Andy Street are “questionable” but it was "refreshing" to see a retail boss "go off message”.

Andy Street

Street, who said at a London dinner that France was "hopeless and downbeat" and urged investors to pull out of the country, has since apologised and claimed his comments were “tongue in cheek.”

However Mark Lowe, a partner at communcations agency Third City and expert in PR crisis management, told The Drum that the remarks may have reflected the private views of many business leaders adding that this type of gaff: “happens so rarely in this world of media training and message management,” adding “we are all human”.

Street’s comments were not the first to reflect the long-running rivalry between London and Paris with even London mayor Boris Johnson claiming earlier this year his city was more successful than the French capital.

Anne Hidalgo, the deputy mayor of Paris responded to Johnson by claiming “London is in some ways a suburb of Pari," which she said was safer and created more business start-ups than the UK capital city.

Lowe said that the rivalry between the two cities was cyclical, with London generally seen as being on top at the moment partly because British business had issues with many of the policies of the French government, especially it’s more restrictive labour laws.

Lowe also said that the row highlighted the point that with the rise of social media no event was truly private adding: “All CEOs should know that there is not a situation when they are off the record.”

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