The power of "the Kelly Effect"

The recently discovered “Kelly Effect” is a very close cousin of the “Bristol Effect”.

And we all know what the Bristol Effect is. It’s the graveyard of ambition where good ideas come to die while talent takes the road to London leaving mediocrity and failure behind to run the show. The Kelly Effect seems to take the Bristol Effect a stage further.

Andrew Kelly was, of course, the brains behind Bristol’s still-born city of culture bid, which singularly failed to galvanise the city. Bristol not only failed to win the accolade but chief judge Jeremy Isaacs even claimed we were “a divided city”. An observation that has been systematically ignored ever since.

Kelly’s failure to in any way unite the city was, however, typically well-rewarded with a doubling of his salary to £80k a year while an office and staff were put at his disposal at Business West’s stately Leigh Court Mansion HQ.

To his credit Kelly has pretty much kept out of people’s way since then. He ran the low-key Brunel 200 celebrations that failed to trouble the headlines very much and he started the Festival of Ideas – basically a series of talks from authors with books to sell.

And in the lead up to this year’s festival Kelly landed something of a coup with the appearance of Samantha Power this week at the Watershed.

Power was someone who was going places. Educated at Yale, teaching at Harvard, a Pullitzer Prize winning journalist and a key foreign policy advisor to Barack Obama, Power was a pretty good outside bet to be the next National Security Advisor to the President of the United States.

Alas one brief visit to Bristol and her career is in ruins! After her Tuesday night appearance here Power returned to London and gave an interview to the Scotsman newspaper the next day. They naturally asked her about the presidential election, which elicited this response on the subject of Hilary Clinton:

“We fucked up in Ohio. In Ohio, they are obsessed and Hillary is going to town on it, because she knows Ohio’s the only place they can win. She is a monster, too – that is off the record – she is stooping to anything.

“You just look at her and think, ‘Ergh’. But if you are poor and she is telling you some story about how Obama is going to take your job away, maybe it will be more effective. The amount of deceit she has put forward is really unattractive.”

Unfortunately there’s no such thing as ‘off the record’ in an on the record interview and Power’s words were published in the Scotsman Thursday and went around the globe within hours.

The comments earned wall-to-wall coverage in the US media – “Monster Bash” was the front-page headline in the New York Daily News, which even labelled her remark “slime-time politics”.

By Friday it was glittering career over as Power issued an urgent and not terribly believable apology:

“With deep regret, I am resigning from my role as an adviser to the Obama campaign. I made inexcusable remarks that are at marked variance from my oft-stated admiration for Senator Clinton and from the spirit, tenor and purpose of the Obama campaign. And I extend my deepest apologies to Senator Clinton, Senator Obama and the remarkable team I have worked with over these long 14 months.”

Blimey. Who other poor sods has Kelly invited to Bristol?

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