“Blood and stomach pills!”

My father sometimes used this phrase when feeling a trifle heated about one thing or another – which was pretty often, starting with the choice of tunes on the Light Service, which is what they called radio 1 in medieval times.

It sprang to my lips when I realised I have mislaid somewhere in cyberland a painstakingly prepared, utterly riveting description of our trip to Havana, complete with enough boring holiday pics to put a regiment to sleep.

Don’t imagine you’ve escaped, though. I shall reconstitute the whole thing and slip it in when you least expect it. Come to think of it, that sounds trifle obscene, doesn’t it?

But enough of these preliminary frolics. Let us turn from the obscene to the ridiculous, of which I saw a couple of examples in the past 48 hours. The first was a ludicrous little invitation from some halfwit in local government inviting “Black and Minority Ethnic Elderly (Over 50) to attend an event where they would learn about their “entitlements”.

I saw this on a bus between Roedean and Brighton Station. I was on that bus because I had just been to see my black and minority ethnic granddaughter playing net-ball and it happens that more than half my family is black and minority ethnic; and in fact I have been mingling with black and minority ethnic people since the age of 18 when a black and minority ethnic bongo-player called Bizi passed me my first joint in a rather dodgy Moss Side jazz club.

And you know what I learned from my intimate acquaintance with these black and minority ethnic folk? Many are quite as bright as everyone else, and would feel as insulted as you and me if some patronising twat from the council with absolutely nothing useful to do but piss away tax-payers’ money thought us so thick we needed to have our own little get-together to explain these things.

But of course the minute most people get that little sniff of authority they seem to imagine we’re all as thick pig shit. Gordon Brown explained he’s not going to hold an election not because the polls said he will lose, but because he doesn’t want to be judged on his “competence” but on his “vision”.

Er, pull the other one, Gordon. This one’s got bells on it.

Who knows what might happen if you were really judged on competence? Would you get three cheers from the soldiers in Iraq you arranged a photo-opportunity with last week? I looked at their faces. Were they all thinking how competent you were to keep back the funding to supply them with better body armour? Who knows? Or were they thinking you were using them to try to look good? Who knows?

But you want to be judged on your “vision”.

Haven’t we had enough of vision in this country. Tony Bliar had one every week, as far as I can make out – and many were not just “visions”. They were strategic visions. I bet many were so strategic and visionary they were downright iconic.

I have no brief for Cameron, but I’ll lay odds that the chief reason why many voters started to think he might just conceivably not make a total balls of things was that he stopped talking vaguely and started being specific.

If you want to persuade people, one fact is worth a truckload of waffle. Why do politicians find this so hard to understand?

But I digress, because it seems visions are far more relevant nowadays than competence. I read that, allegedly, the man who got fired from BBC 1 last week
lost his job because his boss was likely to end up in trouble. His boss? Who could be more important than the guy running the programmes? Why, a woman whose job is “Head of Vision”.

Head of what ?

About the Author


<p>In 2003, the Chartered Institute of Marketing named Drayton one of 50 living individuals who have shaped today’s marketing.</p>
<p>He has worked in 55 countries with many of the world’s greatest brands. These include American Express, Audi, Bentley, British Airways, Cisco, Columbia Business School, Deutsche Post, Ford, IBM, McKinsey, Mercedes, Microsoft, Nestle, Philips, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever, Visa and Volkswagen.</p>
<p>Drayton has helped sell everything from Airbus planes to Peppa Pig. His book, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, out in 17 languages, has been the UK’s best seller on the subject every year since 1982. He has also run his own businesses in the U.K., Portugal and Malaysia.</p>
<p>He was a main board member of the Ogilvy Group, a founding member of the Superbrands Organisation, one of the first eight Honorary Fellows of the Institute of Direct Marketing and one of the first three people named to the Hall of Fame of the Direct Marketing Association of India. He has also been given Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Caples Organisation in New York and Early To Rise in Florida.</p>


  1. Drayton,
    the Anagram of `Election Results` is `lies, let`s recount` Maybe Brown had a vision.

  2. Gulliver Ball


    Before you reach for your stomach pills, download GOOGLE DESKTOP.

    This FREE piece of software is a Godsend. Fast. Efficient. Tailor-made for someone like you who’ve been spoiled by having hot-and-cold running PAs in the past.

  3. Drayton – if i was Gordon Brown, I wouldn’t want to be judged on my competence either.

  4. Drayton,

    I think Mr. Brown got some really bad marketing advice and he listened to it. As you have pointed out ho-so-many times, one of the pitfalls is under valuing the target audience. It pains me to say it but the great marketer Cameron got it right for once: Mr. Brown’s team have assumed we are fools and have come up with an over-though- out excuse to ‘buy’ them. I would have preferred they enhanced Mr. Browns image of a wise nation leader by taking the Indian Chief approach:
    1. When the media started pushing for the election (if there is no news, make it), he should have said: “I hear you, let me take advice of what is good for the nation and I will make my mind up on date X”.
    2. On date X, come out and say: “I looked at it. Here are some good reasons to have the elections and these are the bad ones. I decided against it on balance as it will not deliver return on investment to the nation”.

    Before you jump, the reason we do not have a Athens style democracy were the people have a vote on every little issue is cost effectiveness. We hire our representatives to run the country for us. They are accountable to us and as governors we should be consulted on the big picture, direction and red lines. What good would elections do now? It is better to have them in fixed intervals. If you start going to the people too often, it will be like burning out a prospect by over marketing. As it is, one gets the reaction that all parties are similar in their manifestos and that politicians are in it to promote their personal gain. It angers me each time I hear that.

    Keep up the good blogging,

    Eli Kling

  5. Dear Mr. Bird,

    Firstly, a small matter. It was the Light Programme that became Radio 1. The Home Service more or less became Radio 4.

    But on to the much more important issue of Blood and Stomach Pills. My relatives were also given to this euphemism. They were mostly from Salford, and your mention of it and reference to unconventional activities in Moss Side leads me to suspect that you hail from these parts.

    Another popular oath was “Blood and Sand.” This, of course, comes from the novel by Ernest Hemingway. However, the origin of “Blood and Stomach Pills” interested me mildly for many years.

    It was on a visit to the Salford Museum that the mystery was solved. The Museum contains a replica of a street from Victorian times; “Lark Hill Place” it is called. Amongst the edifices is a chemist’s shop, and on display in the window are numerous patent medicines. Amongst them is a packet of Blood and Stomach Pills.

  6. A mystery solved. Thank you Humphrey!

    You are right. My parents’ pub was in Ashton under Lyne, and still is – though the brewery have totally ruined it with their usual impeccable naff taste.

    But I have a special place in my heart for Salford. I would not be here but for Salford Royal Infirmary. On 23rd August 1954 I was run over. I was taken to that hospital. I was not expected to live because my liver was ruptured. Thanks to one surgeon, the late Mr. Donoghue, I became an object of medical curiosity, because I was the first person ever in the North of England to survive such an injury. As my grandmother said: “Only the good die young, Drayton.”

  7. I actually came acsors this on Google, and I am actually happy I did. I will definately be returning here a lot more generally. Wish I could add towards the post and bring a bit much more for the table, but am just absorbing as much info as I can at the moment.

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