Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

It seems not even domestic goddesses can have it all

Sad image: Nigella Lawson

I was given a Saatchi & Saatchi clock once. I thought it very clever, given the Saatchi brothers are from Iraq and their surname means "clock maker".

I believed the item to be a subtle message from the Svengali Saatchi brothers about public relations – that everything was always changing and that nothing stays the same for long.

Charles, or Maurice, Saatchi probably never even saw those clocks. But I believed they might have – and that's all that matters. Because in the world of public relations, perception is nine-tenths of the law.

When love breaks down, it's never easy. But when love breaks down in full public glare, with a global brand to manage, it can get very ugly.

If there is a lesson to learn from the Lawson v Saatchi pie-slinging it is this: don't go to war with a man who has commanded and controlled brands all of his life. You are likely to lose.

With a reputed net worth of more than £100m, Charles and Nigella have much more than money at stake. It is now a battle for reputation and the hearts and minds of the public. From that now-infamous lunch in Scott's of Mayfair in June, we have been given an insight into what seemed like an idyllic life; it isn't pretty.

What Saatchi would go on to describe as a "playful tiff" became worldwide news and catapulted Nigella Lawson from domestic goddess to domestic victim.

It was hard to see Nigella in such a vulnerable state.

We believed that Nigella was a strong, independent, self-sufficient woman.

But she is not completely without fault in all of this and has been responsible for more than a few porkies herself.

Firstly, she had us believe that it is possible to whip up an Italian rustic meal for 40 from the contents of your store cupboard in 30 minutes. She introduced us to some kind of nuclear slow-cook pork, which could be put in the oven for three days.

Finally, she created the myth that we could eat as much butter as we wanted and that we had more than a fighting chance of looking like her. Wrong. And very, very dangerous.

She is a shrewd operator and a savvy business lady and she understood the effect that the Mayfair incident would have on her brand.

She moved quickly, leaving Saatchi and withdrawing from public life. She did nothing. Sometimes, this can be the hardest thing of all. She allowed the law to deal with Saatchi and gave herself the space to prepare for a colossal comeback.

Everything would have worked out fine had she not had to contend with the wounded pride and lost love of Charles Saatchi. No stranger to managing brands and skilled in the dark arts of politics, he spearheaded a campaign for the Conservative Party, which led Margaret Thatcher to victory.

Saatchi was never going be allow himself to be painted as an evil villain. And, so, anger-management classes were abandoned and emails were written that can never be taken back.

Contrary to popular belief, Charles Saatchi was not responsible for bringing sexy Nigella to the kitchen – that was her own work and the brainchild of her former, now deceased, husband, John Diamond.

The sad images of a very stoic Nigella alighting from her car, surrounded by burly policemen, is a world away from her finger-licking recipe book covers and not one that she will be hanging on the kitchen wall.

Maybe you just can't have it all and eat it.

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