Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tom Watson: Lobby System Against Public Interest
Lobby System Pinnacle of Implicit Politico-Media Corruption

Imagine a secretive organisation whose members have privileged access to Downing Street. Imagine that the members of this organisation receive information covertly. Imagine that the rules of this organisation force the members to withhold information from outsiders if the Prime Minister tells them so to do. Then consider that the members of this closed, opaque, secretive organisation are supposed to hold politicians to account on behalf of the public. After 208 years it is time to end the Lobby system.

The gentlemen of the Lobby drink in subsidised bars, from which the public are excluded, with the politicians they are supposed to hold to account on behalf of that same public. Cowardice and cronyism runs right through the Lobby because they are fearful of being taken off the teat of pre-packaged stories served to them.  That is not journalism, that is copy-taking, this blog was established in part because Guido believes the Lobby system fails the public. The Fourth Estate may not have a formal constitutional role, but the role is real. The role is not to produce “client journalism”.

Peter Oborne in his brilliant Triumph of the Political Class characterises the Lobby system as having produced a tame “client media”. He is absolutely right, the Lobby is far too cosily embedded in the politico-media system, far too close to their subjects, with the likes of Nick Robinson flashing his taxpayer-financed credit card to pour the better vintages down the throats of ministers who have their lunch on the BBC telly-taxpayers. The same ministers who had their expensed groceries sent to their mortgage subsidised home at the taxpayers’ expense. The system stinks, those who are supposed to be watching over politicians – journalists – and the politicians themselves, are the only ones who benefit from the system staying the same.

Two years ago the then PMOS, Simon Lewis, and the then chairman of the Lobby, Jean Eaglesham, announced that the system of Downing Street Lobby briefings was to be reviewed “in light of the changes in the reporting of the work of government in an increasingly fast-moving and on-line media world”. A working group of six lobby hacks and five government spin doctors was to come up with recommendations to be implemented last year. No one from the fast-moving online media world was on the working group. Did anything change? No.

Tom Watson has just called for an end to the Lobby system and off the record briefings. Cameron has said he supports all contacts between politicians and newspaper executives being a matter of public record. More transparency is clearly a good thing. That transparency should be applied to the Lobby system…

See also: In 2007 Guido filmed this polemic against the Lobby system for Newsnight:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Clegg’s Pointed Jibe

Monday, March 7, 2011

Handbags!

Coates outed the “senior government source” that Kirkup was less than subtly dissing on his blog earlier. Calm down dears…

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

The gentlemen of the Lobby are as thin-skinned and status conscious as a gaggle of gay hairdressers on a night out, so Craig Oliver will need to up his game. The Lobby already have their noses a little out of joint because Downing Street hired a bloke off the telly, BBC TV at that, rather than one of their own. Downing Street implicitly signalling to the ink-stained old hands of the Lobby that telly is more important than they are in the great scheme of things.

When Craig visited the press gallery this week to introduce himself (sans bumbag) there was the usual faux bonhomie on both sides. The inkies and the TV luvvie meet and greet was respectful if not warm. Asked for his mobile number Craig put one political editor in their place thus “you can get me through the switchboard”.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Baldwin: Dividing Lines

Lord Ashcroft’s Dirty Politics, Dirty Times” doesn’t hold back on Red Ed’s newly appointed Murdoch fixer. If we turn to page 216 we find a nice anecdote about Tom Baldwin’s cocaine habit:

…which regrettably seems to have become more serious in recent years. Indeed, during the Conservative Party conference in October 2001, he put Peter Stothard’s suite at the Imperial Hotel to ‘good’ use when his editor was unable to make it to the conference as planned. In the company of two journalist colleagues – Giles Coren and Alice Miles – Baldwin snorted lines of cocaine from the glass coffee table in Stothard’s suite. I certainly have no evidence that his colleagues took the drug, but I am told that Baldwin’s appetite for it was voracious and also that at least one colleague reprimanded him for his stupidity, saying: ‘What the hell do you think you are doing, Tom?’ Such is Baldwin’s craving for the drug that he had taken the not inconsiderable risk of smuggling cocaine through the hotel’s high-level security in order to feed his habit.”

Hacks sniffing coke at Tory conference? Whatever next…

Friday, December 3, 2010

MiliSpinner Runners and Riders

Rumours are circulating that a member of the Lobby will be going to spin for Ed Miliband after the departure of the gaffe prone Katie Myler. Guido hears the Mirror’s tribal James Lyons is out in front in the running. Nigel Nelson is getting on a bit, but then The People were the only newspaper to back Ed so he can’t be ruled out. Although not really one of the Lobby the New Statesman’s Mehdi Hasan is another name in the fray – he backed Ed and the other Ed too. Miliband needs someone respected and punchy if he is going to avoid being Labour’s new IDS / Hague / Kinnock.

The dire performances of the Leader of the Opposition in the last few weeks have hardly prompted an overwhelming response to the feelers put out by his current team…

Please queue on the left…

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cameron’s Comedy Turn

While 10,000 kids smash up Whitehall outside, Cameron was entertaining the Lobby lunch, the first PM to do so in 31 years. It must have been a good speech for devout Dave-hater Kevin Maguire to announce that “Cameron witty, smooth, confident, clear and direct in answering questions at today’s press gallery lunch. Impressive”.

Guido could hear the laughter from the cellar. Rory Bremner, warming up, declared “Cameron and Clegg have no mandate (for tuition fees) the only one with a man date is Hague”. However it was Dave’s crack about Simon Burns really tickled him. Apparently once when Bercow told Burn “I’m not happy” the Tory Health Minister quipped “Well, which one are you then?”

UPDATE: Paul Waugh has more of the jokes, but comedy aside DC gave the clearest hint yet he wants David Laws back in the Cabinet “soon”. You can bet on just how soon over at Smarkets where prices on Laws to return have jumped…

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Sky Isn’t the Limit for Craig

Some eyebrows were raised when Joey Jones was promoted to Deputy Political Editor of Sky News. Older and wiser Jon Craig was apparently livid, but then again it was Joey that the BBC was trying to poach. News reaches Guido that Craig isn’t happy and has his eye on another job – the new political editor of the Sunday Times.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Guido Killed the Lobby Star

guido killed the lobby starThe PMOS, Simon Lewis, and the chairman of the Lobby, Jean Eaglesham, yesterday announced that the system of Downing Street Lobby briefings is to be reviewed  “in light of the changes in the reporting of the work of government in an increasingly fast-moving and on-line media world”.  On hearing the news Guido – enjoying a two bottle lunch since PMQs was delayed – paraphrased  lyrics from the Buggles hit on Twitter in celebration.

A working group of six lobby hacks and five government spin doctors is going to come up with recommendations to be implemented next year. No one from the fast-moving online media world is on the working group. Guido has made his views about the Westminster embedded client media that constitutes the Lobby system clear over the years (see Newsnight and The Times). The meek acceptance of non-attributable briefings, often of questionable truth, is hardly helpful to the functioning of an open democracy. This method of information distribution is glorified as “on Lobby terms”.

Comical AliFriends of Mandy have spun the Guardian the idea that the Dark Lord himself should give twice weekly televised briefings* in a new information minister role.  The prospect of Comical Mandy batting off questions from the Lobby has some appeal.  It will all be a pantomime until the clubby culture of the Lobby changes.

*Guido has long supported televised Lobby briefings, ask yourself why is it that Lobby hacks oppose televising them?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who Will Ask the Prime Minister?

Brown is BonkersLast night Guido was on a panel chaired by Jeremy Vine when the subject of Gordon Brown’s alleged anti-depressant pill popping came up.  Jeremy had read Simon Heffer’s article the night before (on his iPhone in bed) and thought that this blog had ran the story.  Guido had not, but on Monday this blog ran a cartoon that referenced the rumour that everyone in the Westminster Village has heard.  The Prime Minister is said to be taking powerful mood altering anti-depressants, specifically Mono Amine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) which are very rarely prescribed since the arrival of Prozac derivatives, used only sparingly when dealing with severely depressed patients.

Guido hesitated to run with the story, which was first reported by John Ward, though it was widely discussed in the comments on this blog.

maoiIn the broadsheets Simon Heffer, Matthew Parris have touched on the issue and this morning Matthew Norman in the Independent has explicitly referred to the allegation that Gordon Brown is taking “heavy duty antidepressants known as MAOIs (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors)”. The evidence is first and foremost his behaviour – what some have previously put down to a lack of EQ or emotional intelligence, is now being attributed to drugs to control his dark depressions.  We all know the stories of rages, flying Nokias, smashed laser printers, tables kicked over and crying Downing Street secretaries subjected to foul-mouthed tirades.  We have seen the deranged YouTube performances, the bizarre facial contortions, the incongruent emotional responses – smiling when offering condolences, frowning when giving best wishes.

The new evidence offered is that a civil service circulated dietary restrictions list is said to be of the kind required for someone on MAOI medication.  The side effects include insomnia, dry mouth and jaw clenching (bruxism) – all of which Brown is known to suffer.  Psychiatrists warn of MAOIs that ‘Extrapyramidal effects include acute dystonic reactions such as protuding tongue, muscular contractions and clenched jaw’. Gordon’s bruxism may have another explanation, it has been remarked on before.  In the context of all this speculation and his manifest physical unease, surely somebody in the Lobby has to publicly ask the question at the PM’s next monthly briefing:  “Prime Minister, have you been taking medication that may affect your judgement?”


Seen Elsewhere

Tories Choose Anti-Israel Candidate in Rochester | JC
Osborne’s Daycare Obsession is a Time Bomb | Kathy Gyngell
BBC Marr Pinko Trying to Ban the Queen | Speccie
Eric Hobsbawm: Companion of Dishonour | Standpoint
Guido Party Gossip | Iain Dale
Russell Brand Comes Out as 9/11 Truther | Guardian
Health Revolution is Underway | Fraser Nelson
UKIP Gets Professional | Red Box
Kelly Tolhurst Wins Rochester Open Primary | BBC
No.10 Ambushed by EU Prosperity Tax | Times
10 Years of Guido | Iain Dale


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Rob Colvile reviews Russell Brand’s new book:

“Oddly, the person I feel sorriest for isn’t Brand himself – although he certainly comes across as a rather pitiable figure, projecting his own brokenness on to the world around him – but Johann Hari. Drummed out of Fleet Street for plagiarism, the former Independent columnist has washed up as “my mate Johann, who’s been doing research for this book”. For a genuinely talented polemicist, it would have been a humbling experience to have to treat this sub-undergraduate dross as the scintillating wisdom of a philosopher-king.”



Mycroft says:

Have you read the last bit of Animal Farm?

You know where the animals are looking through the Farmhouse window?

My TV screen was that window at lunch-time today.

Be careful, the sudden self-congratulatory tone, the slightly pudgy outline of indulgence and you become exactly what you should despise.

The jolly face of the Quisling Cameron poses for your camera has mesmerised and deceived you, you who were once not so deceived.

You were no firebrand, you were a damp squib in my opinion, sorry.

You need a damned good kick up the ahse!


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