The Lobby Pass Dilemma

Paul Linford reflects on the perennial Lobby passes for bloggers issue. This has come up again because Ben Brogan (current Lobby chairman) has described the issue as a “a huge headache.”

“They’ve been very reluctant to start issuing passes to new media outlets. There’s an ongoing conversation whether the House of Commons authorities start issuing media passes to bloggers. That remains unresolved.”

 

Not entirely true, new media in the form of Robert Gibson from the Gallery News email service has a pass and the nascent PoliticsHome.com have a pass. Neither have the kind of circulation enjoyed by the leading Westminster blogs. When some time ago 18 Doughty Street (R.I.P.) applied for a pass they were told by the Serjeant-at-Arms that passes were only available to “substantive organisations”, yet they have now given a pass to the smaller PoliticsHome operation run by the same people. Dale and Tim Montgomerie already have (if Guido recalls correctly) Commons passes, presumably Dale could plausibly now get a Lobby pass via Total Politics.

Adam Boulton when he was chairman of the Lobby* told Guido that he thought he should be entitled to a pass and he had no problem with it. Having now gatecrashed quite a few briefings, it really is questionable whether it is that valuable. If you ask a difficult question you don’t get an answer. Ironically half the Daily Lobby spend their time reading blogs and writing comment pieces for their own blogs rather than actually chasing news stories, Guido now feels that going to press conferences can be safely left to the broadcasters – (it would be better for us all if the all the Lobby briefings were broadcast, ask yourself why fearless Lobby journalists are opposed to that happening).

Given the lack of respect Guido has for many members of the Lobby and the tense relationship that some of them have with Guido, it would be something of a headache for Ben if an application was made by this blog. Remember how upset Sir Michael White was when Guido attended a Lobby lunch in an Irish rugby shirt?

There is also a very real danger that by being assimilated into the Lobby one would become part of the system and compromised. Ask yourself why did the decades old issue of MP’s expense fiddles only really come alive in the last few years? The Lobby (with one or two exceptions) didn’t rock the boat on that issue – bloggers and pressure groups led on that issue.

You gain very little edge from invitations to minister’s drinks parties and you don’t get an exclusive by going to an event attended by half the Lobby. Guido has got his best stories directly from sources, not scripted events. The Lobby gets spoon fed by Downing Street and spun from all directions, would the blog be enhanced by having a seat at the back of the plane on a Prime Ministerial trip to Beijing? Would being cosy with Damian McBride be of service to the co-conspirators? Methinks perhaps not.

*Guido called Brogan to ask him his view and he promises to get back shortly.




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