Cain Calls for Ceasefire in War with Lobby

There was an odd mood in this morning’s No. 10 briefing awaiting Guido, with a much-depleted turnout. A conference call had been set up to allow Lobby correspondents to dial into the briefing, with around 19 choosing to do so. There’s a simple solution to Coronavirus forcing members of the Lobby into self-isolation: televise the briefings…

Entirely uniquely, however, was a pre-briefing talk given by Lee Cain, who formally called for a pause to the fractured relations between the Government and media that have arisen since January. Boris’s Director of Communications told attendees that this is an “unprecedented time” and “a difficult period for us all”, saying that the Government wants to “wipe the slate clean” and it “doesn’t matter who you work for/where you are on the political spectrum, praising the media for their responsible reporting of the virus.

Cain also said further conversations are needed, suggesting that No. 10 may ask a single representative from the Lobby to visit and chat with him and the PM’s spokesman on a semi-regular basis to “talk about how things may be done better, what is working” etc. There were lots of approvingly nodding heads…

Separate to the frank and seemingly friendly chat, Cain also indicated No. 10 are wanting to reduce footfall through the heart of Government to reduce the chance of Coronavirus spreading inside Downing Street. This may also mean the newly-instituted daily Coronavirus briefings see limited attendance from news outlets, with the Government having to look at the press being able to phone in questions. Guido notes the daily press briefings will be detailed, frank and televised – all without the sky falling in…

mdi-timer 16 March 2020 @ 12:48 16 Mar 2020 @ 12:48 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Caroline’s Centenary Clanger

At tonight’s Women’s Lobby celebration of the centenary of women journalists in parliament there were audible gasps when Caroline Wheeler, the Sunday Times deputy political editor, lamented that there are “more one-eyed male journalists in the Sunday Lobby than there are women”. Stunned ministers and MPs among the two hundred strong crowd looked at their feet. Whilst factually correct, it seemed a bit of a tone-deaf note to strike at the celebration of women. It is hardly inclusive to make a mockery of blameless male hacks’ disability. One onlooker described it as “needlessly crass”.

mdi-timer 25 February 2020 @ 21:13 25 Feb 2020 @ 21:13 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
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 13 January 2020 @ 16:28 13 Jan 2020 @ 16:28 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View 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 26 April 2018 @ 14:43 26 Apr 2018 @ 14:43 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View 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 25 April 2018 @ 14:49 25 Apr 2018 @ 14:49 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View 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 1 March 2018 @ 14:35 1 Mar 2018 @ 14:35 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
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