Frustrated Lobby hacks have been sharing horror stories of their dealings with the press operations of the Shadow Cabinet. It’s a tough gig being a Labour spinner at the moment – Keir Starmer seems to be on an eight hour time lapse and Diane Abbott’s migraines must prevent her from signing off press releases. The most amusing gripe is Paul Waugh’s complaint about an unnamed Shadow Cabinet minister, who he this week gave an idea for a question to the Commons Library, only to see them place the answer with a rival publication.
“Friday arrives. I ring aide. No answer. I text. Radio silence. An hour and 15 mins later I get an email saying sorry they missed my call. The email then says: “When we got the library figures back this afternoon there were some quite shocking figures…” But then I read the next sentence. “On this basis, we thought it best to go with [a rival media organisation] on the story, who wanted it as an exclusive.” My response was unprintable. Safe to say it involved the F-word. I’ve worked in Commons for 19 yrs (which is more than 10 yrs longer than this Shad Cab minister and a lot longer than the aide). And never have I been so appalled at such a duplicitous, discourteous and plain counter-productive media tactic.”
Who could this duplicitous Shadow Cabinet minister be? If you Google “cuts“, “Commons library figures” and “Labour” there is only one news story from the last week: this Guardian report about benefits cuts. It contains a quote from the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams. She has been in the Commons for six years, which fits the clues in Waugh’s timeline. Lobby hacks beware: never go to Debbie Abrahams with a story, she’ll sell you down the river…
Paul Waugh asks Chuka Umunna if he wants children:
“It’s always something that my father taught me, which is really the bedrock of everything is your family and that’s true. My family and the people close to me keep me sane. Sometimes, things get blown up out of all proportion in this place and that’s always the reaction of my family, my girlfriend and my friends. I can use that to judge whether it really is that important.”
Replacing Mehdi at HuffPo is:
I have some news. I will be joining HuffingtonPost UK as their Executive Editor, Politics after the general election.
— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) February 13, 2015
Following on from Sam McCrory’s move to the BBC this means struggling Dods have now lost their two most senior editorial staff in two months. Smart move by AOL, Mehdi was more of a polemicist and interviewer than a news man. Comment is cheap and over-supplied, news is in more demand. Waugh has a better nose for news than his predecessor. Congratulations… It’s still Waugh!