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…