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A Tuppence Worth

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A reader, a European politico who "witnessed the working of the Labour war rooms in both 2001 and 2005," emails to share his "tuppence worth" on the Greenberg-Penn exchange:

In terms of the atmosphere of the campaigns - 2001 was one large open-plan office where even [then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon] Brown sat. It was an upbeat room where there was a constant interchange between people. Greenberg was deeply embedded within everything. 'Loops' were large and delivered a brilliantly effective campaign.

2005 was factionalised, with people working in separate (large) rooms and with lousy communication. It was a very unhappy place. Penn's operation had a much larger physical presence than Greenberg's had had - reflecting a tendency to be self-contained in analysis versus Greenberg's more collegial approach (in 2001 I overheard him go to some Brits with "these are just in what do you think?"). Alistair Campbell is credited with going to Blair and saying 'enough' and things got back on track.

I have never worked with Greenberg, and he wouldn't know me, but I have observed his work closely in a couple countries and his approach is clearly to be a partner of the client - essential to recognising the limits of US experience when applied to international campaigns. This is why his is the only US firm which has had a long-term presence in Europe. Penn is building his business in Europe, but we'll have to wait a few years before we see if it's sustainable.