Recently, Prime Minister Edi Rama has started an advertisement campaign for the European public. While in Albania is consolidating his personal power with a strong hand, he is, as always, careful to package these autocratic attempts as modernizing and European reforms for his foreign audience.
In this campaign, Rama has reactivated his network of foreign clients, including several former high-level European politicians, most of whom have found a second life as consultant, councilor, commentator, or otherwise.
Five days ago former spin doctor of Tony Blair Alastair Campbell wrote an article on his personal website filled with praise for Rama. The article was propagated as a major news event by all Albanian media outlets, nearly all of which are now under Rama’s direct or indirect control. Even tough Campbell acknowledges in his article that he has worked as a personal and paid consultant for Rama, the Albanian media completely ignored that fact and merely referred to him as the former spin doctor of Tony Blair. In fact, Blair and his wife have been paid for several years as consultants of the Rama government.
Two days ago it was the turn of discredited politician Denis MacShane, for Minister of European Affairs in Tony Blair’s government. In the French daily newspaper Le Monde, MacShane published an article in which he praised Edi Rama, portraying him as the politician that will save social democracy in Europe.
The article flows over with compliments and praise and has exactly the same structure as all the other content for which Rama has paid the last few years in the foreign press: it describes Rama’s fashion style; it stresses that Rama has been an accomplished artist and sportsman; it mentions his transformation of Tirana, never forgetting to mention the painting of the facades; it claims that as Prime Minister as emancipates and modernizes Albania.
Even though MacShane seems to be well informed about the details of the reforms that Prime Minister Rama has implemented or announced, it seems that he has some difficulties with the facts because the article is full of misinformation, from mangled information to open lies – all of which are an exaggeration of Rama’s accomplishments as Prime Minister.
As is his habit, Rama started his morning with feverishly propagating MacShane’s article through his PR apparatus, starting with his own Facebook page.
While Campbell has worked with Rama for years, MacShane is a recent addition to his group of sycophants. In May, a few weeks before the parliamentary elections, MacShane wrote an article on Euroactiv in which he heaped praise on Rama while severely criticizing opposition leader Lulzim Basha as a risk for Albania because of his populism. The article, filled with misquotations and other claims that are uncommon for a politician of European stature, was again used by the pro-government media and propagated by media commentators as a serious text written by a political personality, emphasizing that MacShane had been a Minister of European Affairs, which gave additional weight to his opinion.
What the Albanian media failed to report then and now is something interesting regarding the partisan political position of MacShane. Denis MacShane is a former career politician whose career ended because of corruption, including illegal payments and fake invoices for government expenses.
In 2013, while he was a Member of Parliament in the UK, he was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for the falsification of 19 expense invoices to profit from reimbursement from the British Parliament, at the sum of €18,000. He was initially investigated by Parliament and finally convicted as criminal. In his sentence, the judge stated that MacShane has shown “a flagrant breach of trust” in the UK’s “priceless democratic system.”
It is difficult to believe that such a man would offer his services to Edi Rama for free. For a few thousand euros he committed fraud against the British Parliament and destroyed his political career, so it seems unlikely that he would adore and praise Rama for free.