Silence of the Spinners

politics

“He doesn’t want to speak to you” Guido has been told many times. We’ve never had a problem being put in the “sin bin” by politicians, we don’t seek to do interviews, so if a politician refuses to speak to us, it doesn’t matter too much, we can still talk about them. In fact we will probably shout about them even more. (Some free advice to any MP in our crosshairs, we don’t go away if you ignore us, we redouble our efforts.) These days however it is usually a party press officer – a professional spinner – who refuses to do his job and comment.

After a string of negative stories the LibDem press office earlier this year decided not to engage with us, did it help their cause? No. Stories on the blog went unchallenged and into print the next day in the national press. To be fair to the LibDem press team, our guess is they usually haven’t been told anything by the Deputy PM’s office in Downing Street, so it is not as if they can say anything of consequence. Amusingly after the Guido Fawkes Tenth Anniversary party they called, hurt, to inquire why press officers from the Tories, Labour and UKIP were all there eating caviar and drinking champagne whilst none from LibDem HQ were invited. “We put you in our sin bin” we told them…

Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times this morning analyses Labour’s attitude to the press

They blame the “rightwing press”, particularly the chunk of it owned by Rupert Murdoch, not only for the leadership tremors but for Mr Miliband’s low reputation in the country. If voters disdain Mr Miliband, the party seems to believe, it is because they are brainwashed. The best that can be said for this theory is that it has ideological pedigree; the one morsel of Marxist doctrine still evidently cherished by the British left is false consciousness.

Labour’s view of the press has soured to the point of self-harm. The Sun is read by more than 5 million Britons every day, many of whom vote Labour or entertain the prospect of doing so. Yet the party talks of the Murdoch-owned tabloid as a remote Other. It is just about conceivable that Labour can win power while ignoring anyone who disagrees with it. How it expects to govern a plural nation with such a sectarian cast of mind is harder to understand.

Unhinged by indignation, Labour MPs even joined a hashtag campaign on Twitter to insist that “We back Ed”, like Brezhnev-era Kremlin officials denying rumours of a coup. To repeat: a major political party decided that having to affirm support for its own leader six months before a general election would somehow leave him an enhanced figure.

The idea that being put in the “sin bin” will hurt Guido is bizarre. We’re going to light up those pixels and fill up those column inches regardless whether or not you engage. The pixels on the #1 political website in the country, the inches in the political column in the biggest selling newspaper in Britain…

We want to get the facts right when we run a story, press officers and party apparatchiks may not like the tone or the thrust of an article coming down the line, nevertheless running away won’t help. Look at Sadiq Khan‘s recent 48 hours of bad publicity. Sadiq thought he could tough it out with “no comment”, that didn’t work with us because – unlike the Leveson leery dead tree press – we ran the pictures without a response anyway. In the end ignoring this blog meant the broadcast and print media eventually joined in the mêlée. As Tom Watson once said, if you can’t take a kicking from Guido, then you don’t deserve to be in politics…




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