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…
Looks like a turning point…
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.
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…
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
“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…
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 confirmed he is predicting a by-election this summer, telling a press gallery lunch that he thinks UKIP will win. Dave will note the several Tory MPs quaffing Merlot with the hack pack as Farage confessed he had been a frequenter of lap-dancing establishments, laid into Leveson and endorsed Gove for PM. He knows his audience…
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 offices, i.e. the large amounts of paper lying around. He stressed to me the need for immediate action.
I know that a clear desk policy is simply not something we do, but we do need to be seen to be taking action. Therefore this is a plea to everyone to take a dispassionate look at your office generally and your desk in particular. Do you really need ALL the newspapers/magazines/piles of paper which are lying around? If not, please, please throw some of it away as soon as possible. If you really can’t bear to part with any of it could you at least tidy up – a neat pile looks a lot less than a haphazard heap that appears to be about to fall over!
The Fire Officer will be back for a further inspection SOON, possibly as soon as FRIDAY THIS WEEK, and certainly next week.
Look at it this way, the paper attracts the mice (who use it for nesting material so the pest control officer tells me) – so less paper means fewer mice, which can’t be bad!
Parliamentary Press Gallery
They are officially a hazard. Guido could have told you that already…
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: