Rain on Dave’s Parade

The PM brought back up to his summer bash for Peroni-guzzling Lobby hacks last night, but it was the weather that rained on his parade – literally. As damp Tory leadership contenders worked the thinning lawn of the Downing Street rose garden, a relaxed Dave stood side by side with Theresa May doling out titbits to a ‘doughnut’ of senior correspondents, while Saj put in a good innings. By pure coincidence, Osborne was hosting a rival party upstairs and his guests soon milled out to join the PM’s. The high turnout of ministers included Matt Hancock and Nicky Morgan, Fallon was presumably busy blowing up Syrians. Boris was conspicuous by his absence…

By contrast to the Chancellor’s austere offering of pretzels and Skips last week, the PM generously put on a decent spread of sausages, vol-au-vents and lovely little fried feta cheese pastry nibbles. Asked by mischievous visitors how much holiday he would be taking this summer, Dave zinged back: “I’ll take the same amount of time off as the Lobby”. After an hour or so’s mingling, the PM was hurriedly called back into No.10 just as the heavens threatened to open…

Dave’s Balls Up in Bavaria

Tory unity has lasted exactly one month, as has Dave The Winner’s honeymoon with the press. Needless to say his EU-turn today and then an arrogant schooling G7 news conference has gone down like a cup of cold sick with the travelling press pack.

The PM’s suggestion that “if you’re not certain about something I said yesterday, then ask”, has gone down particularly badly:

If Cameron 2.0 is so keen on journalists asking questions, perhaps he might like to reinstate those monthly press conferences that he dodged for the last five years?

What is Wrong With the Lobby?

WATCH: Cameron’s ‘Bill Somebody’ PMQs Gag

Cameron delivered his best gag for ages at PMQs today:

“The day after his Shadow Chancellor was asked on the television could he think of one single business leader, do you know what he said, he said ‘Bill somebody’. Mr Speaker, ‘Bill somebody’ is not a person, ‘Bill somebody’ is Labour’s policy!”

Only six more to go…

House Turns on Speaker: Live Reaction

Looks like a turning point…

Tired, Exhausted, Nothing to Say, Time for Them to Go…

lobby-guide

The Parliamentary Lobby yesterday had the usual afternoon briefing scheduled with the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS). This is where the gentlemen of the Lobby are spoonfed some copy to take down or, as they see it, perform a vital service to democracy by holding the executive to account. The finest of the free press toiling for democracy and truth!

The Lobby is a self-selecting privileged cartel given access to briefings denied to the rest of the media, with their own secret rules to protect members and exclude competitors. The justifications are varied, sometimes they argue that they want to reserve the cartel for professional inquisitors not politically motivated bloggers with an agenda. That must be why the Morning Star and the unprinted Tribune newspaper are Lobby members.

Yesterday at the Lobby briefing not one single question was asked of the executive and a bemused PMOS wandered back to Downing Street untroubled. A proud day for the Lobby and British journalism. Nothing to see here…

UPDATE: A senior Lobby correspondent writes, presumably on non-attributable Lobby terms:

The lobby is almost always a useless waste of time. It is a chore not a secret pleasure. Leaving was a statement about the pointlessness of a Number 10 press operation that refuses to say anything rather than about the corruption of the lobby.

Robinson’s Lobby Colleagues Fed Up With Him Lifting Stories

Nick Robinson was the focus of ridicule among his Lobby colleagues last night after he yet again lifted a newspaper journalist’s story and claimed it as his own. “BREAKING”, he tweeted, the three major parties would reject a currency union with an independent Scotland, “the BBC has learned”. Just one problem, Nick Watt at the Guardian had broken the story some 21 hours earlier. 

Several Lobby journalists have since been in touch with MediaGuido to express their increasing frustration at Robinson claiming stories broken elsewhere as his own, attributing them instead to “BBC sources”. It is a running joke that BBC news broadcasts consistently refuse to credit other news organisations – putting up  ‘Breaking News – the BBC has learned’ graphics half an hour after it was on Sky – but Robinson telling readers that this story was his own has crossed the line. One hack notes his regular surprise to see lines from government or opposition press releases (emailed out to every Westminster journalist at the same time) reported as “a Tory/Labour source tells me” on the News at Ten. The fact he is “never around” is hardly helping his popularity either. BBC head of news James Harding is cracking the whip demanding exclusives from his political team, Robbo seems to be feeling the pressure.

When MediaGuido spoke to Nick Watt last night, he wanted to stress that “I hold Nick in the highest regard” and suggested we take a look at the high volume of critical tweets from Lobby journalists to gauge how other hacks feel. Despite Robinson confessing to reading the Guardian story first, last night’s News at Ten again fibbed “our political editor Nick Robinson broke the story”Tut tut…

 

Loongate: Where We Are

SWIVEL-EYED-GREG-BARKER

Last night the story broke that a senior Tory close to Cameron said of the EU Referendum and gay marriage backbench rebellions “It’s fine. There’s really no problem. The MPs just have to do it because the associations tell them to, and the associations are all mad, swivel-eyed loons.” It was reported by The Times and The Telegraph on their front pages in similar terms and also by the Mirror and Mail.

Sam Coates, James Kirkup, James Lyons and Tim Shipman are experienced journalists and will have known the likely repercussions of reporting an off the record / Lobby terms comment even without attribution. They set speculation running by describing the source of the comments as having “strong social connections” to the PM and as a “senior party” figure. For the record Guido has not spoken to any of the journalists concerned.

This morning Guido emailed Lord Feldman

Feldman has publicly denied being the source of the quote

feldman“There is speculation on the internet and on Twitter that the senior Conservative Party figure claimed to have made derogatory comments by the Times and the Telegraph is me.

“This is completely untrue. I would like to make it quite clear that I did not nor have ever described our associations in this way or in any similar manner. Nor do these alleged comments represent my view of our activists. On the contrary in the last eight years of working for the party, I have found them to be hard working, committed and reasonable people. They are without question the backbone of the party. I am very disappointed by the behaviour of the journalists involved, who have allowed rumour and innuendo to take hold by not putting these allegations to me before publication. I am taking legal advice.”

Not sure why Lord Feldman thinks the journalists concerned should have put the allegations to him when they didn’t name him and in any event he says he didn’t say the words concerned.

The journalists concerned are abiding by the conventions of the Lobby and not confirming the source whilst standing by the story. Downing Street “supports Lord Feldman’s position” and denies that anyone in Downing Street was the source of the quote. Which of course is an allegation no one has made.

Guido has not received any legal notices…

Farage Confirms Hancock By-Election Plan

A month ago in his Sun column Guido revealed that UKIP are already up and running on the ground in Portsmouth South in anticipation that self-confessed teen fondler Mike Hancock will be forced out, triggering a by-election. Today Farage has […]

+ READ MORE +

Official: Lobby System is Dangerous and Grubby

As many of you will know, we received unexpected visit from the Commons Chief Fire Safety Officer yesterday morning.

I think it’s fair to say that he was not at all happy with what he saw in some of our

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Joe Watts to the Standard

Joe Watts, regional lobby hack for the Eastern Daily Press, has got the call up the Evening Standard’s politics team. Swapping Norfolk for the crack of dawn.

Regular readers may remember Joe’s online incarnation LobbyDogCongratulations.[…]

+ READ MORE +

Hack Pack Can’t Get Back
Lobby “Banging On About Europe” as Stuck in Belgium

Well this is hilarious. It seems half of Her Majesty’s loyal press corp are stuck in Brussels as they attempt to get back from Dave’s cancelled Amsterdam speech through the Europe-wide snow storm:

[…]

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Charles Clarke says Cameron is the most successful PM for over a century…

“Under Margaret Thatcher the Conservatives gained 99 seats. They lost 211 under John Major, gained one under William Hague, quickly and wisely got rid of Ian Duncan-Smith, gained 32 under Michael Howard and have so far gained 133 under David Cameron who, to the great surprise of many (including senior Conservatives), has turned out to be the most electorally successful Tory leader since 1900.”

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