Editors Still Grumpy About No. 10’s Briefing Reforms

The media are still fighting No. 10’s reforms to the archaic Lobby system, desperate to come up with excuses to keep their cosy club as they’ve always liked it. Today the Society of Editors published a “call on PM to review lobby changes”. Not quite the ‘war’ the Lobby were promising…

Their letter raises three concerns which, given Guido’s now attended a couple of the new briefings, bear no basis in reality:

  1. Travelling to Downing Street twice a day will “hamper coverage of open government“. It’s at most a 5-minute walk from Parliament…
  2. “Correspondents now have to negotiate the Downing Street security system before attending the briefings”. It is the smoothest, quickest security Guido can remember encountering – waved through in seconds…
  3. “Correspondents… cannot take mobile phones”. This one came as a particular surprise to Guido given he’s been live-tweeting the briefings from his phone…

They voice these concerns especially for “regional titles and also smaller publications and websites”, yet smaller publications have been offered the option by No. 10 to ring the spokesman, receive the full readout and ask questions if they need to – even though they very rarely attend the afternoon sessions anyway. Ultimately this will all be fixed if Number 10 entered the 21st century and decide to #streamthebriefings…

mdi-timer 13th January 2020 @ 4:28 pm 13th Jan 2020 @ 4:28 pm mdi-comment Comments
Rudd Drops Customs Union Bombshell

Amber Rudd has extraordinarily refused to say Britain will leave the customs union in what comes close to a breach of collective responsibility. Asked at today’s Press Gallery lunch if the UK would stay in the customs union, Rudd replied: “I won’t be drawn on that – we still have some cabinet discussions to have”. It seems pretty clear that Rudd is deliberately putting a bomb under the UK’s negotiating position in an attempt to distract from the Windrush scandal. Every crack in the UK line on the customs union encourages the EU to give us a bad deal. Rudd is putting her own career ahead of Britain’s negotiating position. Might work for a few hours, but she will still be lucky to survive the week…

Rudd admitted to the Lobby that she is fighting for her political career, conceding: “I’m just thinking about staying in the game.” She also ruled out a chicken run to another seat to improve her leadership chances ahead of the next election: “I will definitely fight the next general election in Hastings and Rye”. That’s surely a moot point, her leadership chances are close to zero at the moment…

UPDATE: Rudd clarifies:

Her tweet does not address whether she thinks we will be remaining in a customs union…

mdi-timer 26th April 2018 @ 2:43 pm 26th Apr 2018 @ 2:43 pm mdi-comment Comments
He Who Must Not Be Named

Seumas Milne has refused to conduct Labour’s post-PMQs Lobby huddles for the last month after getting into a strop about being named – in breach of Lobby convention – by the Press Association and Guido, among others. Today he ended his sulk and gave the briefing, after instructing journalists they must refer to him only as “a Labour spokesman” and not by name. The anonymity traditionally afforded by the Lobby to spokesmen is a means of avoiding accountability – if spinners are safe from ever being named what incentive do they have to be honest? They can lie with impunity. In Seumas’ case, his views on Russia and Syria and his reputation among Labour MPs meant he became the story himself. Ordering journalists to never refer to him by his name is a curious look. Who does he think he is, Voldemort?

mdi-timer 25th April 2018 @ 2:49 pm 25th Apr 2018 @ 2:49 pm mdi-comment Comments
Time’s Up For Chorley

Last night’s Westminster Correspondents Dinner saw Matt Chorley finally able to showcase his wit to a larger audience. It was an opportunity he was never going to give up lightly – he certainly wasn’t going to let the fact that he’s no longer the Press Gallery chairman stand in the way. In the weeks running up to the bash, Chorley argued he should give the main journalist’s speech because he didn’t get to do it when last year’s event was cancelled. It was not lost on the female members of the Lobby that, in the centenary year of women getting the vote, a man was demanding all the glory despite two women – Kate McCann and Emily Ashton – now being the Press Gallery and Lobby chairmen. Chorley and outgoing Lobby chair Tom Newton Dunn then secured the two keynote speeches. Justice was served for the sisterhood by one Theresa May, who spent a good few minutes of her speech roasting Chorley:

“so self-effacing is Matt, that in this centenary year of female suffrage, the year of Time’s Up and Me Too, he has demonstrated just what a stalwart ally he is, by heroically forcing the female Chairman of the Press Gallery to sit in silence and listen to him speak.”

Those male Lobby egos brought back down to earth…

mdi-timer 1st March 2018 @ 2:35 pm 1st Mar 2018 @ 2:35 pm mdi-comment Comments
May’s Best Gags From Correspondents Dinner

Some actually not bad jokes from Theresa May at the Westminster Correspondents Dinner last night – she’s surprisingly good at this sort of thing and Guido gives you the highlights below. The Hammond crack is a zinger and she even told a sex joke…

“I was able to catch up with David Cameron over the phone and as ever he had some excellent advice. Don’t worry about Boris. Don’t worry about the Chancellor. Worry about ambitious female Home Secretaries. Lovely to see you here tonight, Amber…” Cue awkward OTT laugh from Amber…

“I remember one canvassing trip that sticks in my memory. I was at the open door of a caravan and there was clearly some activity within, so I knocked and there was no answer. But the activity persisted. I could see somebody lying down on the bed so I knocked again. There was no reply so I looked round the door and there was indeed somebody lying down. It was not one person but two, and it was not the best time to ask them if they’re going to vote Conservative. I have to say they were giving a whole new meaning to the phrase deep and special.”

“Matt Hancock has transcended into a higher state of existence. He’s thrown off the surly bonds of flesh and blood. Matt Hancock actually is now an app. He communicates with me by way of alarming phone notifications. Matt Hancock would like to track your location. Matt Hancock would like to access your photos. But perhaps most worryingly of all, there is a fault with Matt Hancock. Other ministers are following his lead. The Boris Johnson app is great for extending your vocabulary, but it does contain some adult content. The Philip Hammond app is like a drier, less frivolous version of LinkedIn. I’m told one minister is even developing a labour-saving app which converts every Cabinet discussion directly into a James Forsyth column, thus cutting out the hassle of briefing him each week. Tonight I can reveal I’m even working on my own app. It does provide GPS directions to your nearest wheat field, real time tracking of Priti Patel’s air travel, and an instant allocation of all household chores into boy jobs and girl jobs.” 

On Lobby hacks’ early careers… “In 1997 we read how one Tom Newton Dunn reported on how plastic surgery to create the body beautiful is no longer just a female prerogative. I have to say Tom if I were you I’d ask for your money back.”

Boom boom…

mdi-timer 1st March 2018 @ 1:18 am 1st Mar 2018 @ 1:18 am mdi-comment Comments
Lobby Warned Change is Coming at Correspondents Dinner

Last week Corbyn played to his fanbase with that not-at-all-sinister viral video warning the free press “change is coming”. Last night the shadow cabinet – plus Jezza’s media outriders including Evolve Politics sellout Matt Turner – dusted off their black tie and joined the mainstream media at the Westminster Correspondents Dinner. No one tell Skwawkbox…

Outgoing Press Gallery chairman Matt Chorley provided the funnies at the event he has been waiting for his entire tenure. Chorley told the room that plans were already in motion for next year’s bash, when Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn would address the surviving members of the Lobby. “There won’t be any!” heckled well-lubricated brocialist Barry Gardiner. Who will Seumas have first up against the wall? 

mdi-timer 1st March 2018 @ 12:00 am 1st Mar 2018 @ 12:00 am mdi-comment Comments
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