Conrad Black: why Waterstone's should be ashamed

Waterstone’s seem to have got away with it in terms of the publicity for the event – but I think they should be deeply ashamed for the way they are helping a convicted criminal (and themselves) to make money, and dressing it all up in the language of “oooh, look at our clever new toy”.

What am I on about? Well – last week disgraced and convicted Conservative peer Lord Black did a books signing at Waterstone’s in Piccadilly. Only – he wasn’t there because – following his conviction overseas – he’s not allowed to travel to the UK.

Instead, Waterstone’s reeled out a bit of video conferencing plus a remotely controlled robotic arm so that Conrad Black could get round his travel ban and still “sign” copies of his latest book (about, ironically enough, that other moral reprobate – Richard M. Nixon).

Now – I’m all for treating those convicted of crime in a sensible manner (and that includes using work as part of rehabilitation programmes) but this wasn’t anything like that.

It was a distasteful mix of celebrity and technology to make money for all concerned – with the helping hand of PR courtesy of the robotic arm signing which was only needed because Black was convicted of a crime. Result: more royalties for Black, more profits for Waterstone’s. And to hell with the morality of it all.

So as I said – shame on Waterstone’s for this money grubbing approach to making money however it comes.

And here’s a challenge for Waterstone’s: if you weren’t really just trying to make money out of someone being a criminal and so not able to come to the UK, why don’t you donate all your profits from the event to one of the deserving charities that help victims of crime?