02/10/2020

The clash comes amid deteriorating relations between Downing Street and the media, writes Nigel Morris

The clash comes amid deteriorating relations between Downing Street and the media, writes Nigel Morris
Senior television and newspaper journalists walked out of Downing Street in protest over Trump-style plans to restrict information on Government policy to a handful of favoured reporters.
The exclusion of political correspondents deemed critical of Number 10 from a Brexit briefing, triggered protests in the Commons and was condemned as an attempt to hide from scrutiny.
The confrontation came when selected journalists were invited for a technical briefing by David Frost, the Prime Ministers Europe adviser, on his forthcoming trade talks with European Union leaders.
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Correspondents from other newspapers not on Number 10s hand-picked list including i also went to Downing Street in an attempt to attend the briefing.
Senior political journalists walked out of Downing Street in protest over its decision to ban selected reporters from a briefing on Brexit (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
Once inside the building the reporters were divided into two groups on either side of its entrance hall and those not on the list of invitees were told to leave.
As an argument broke out, the Prime Ministers director of communications, Lee Cain, insisted: We are welcome to brief whoever we want, whenever we want.
Media outlets that Downing Street had attempted to cut out included i, the Daily Mirror, Independent, the Evening Standard,HuffPost UK and PoliticsHome.
Receive more analysis from Hugo Gye every weekday lunchtime by signing up to the i on politics newsletter here
In protest at the treatment of colleagues from rival organisations, all the journalists present chose to boycott the briefing.
Among those who walked out were the BBCs political editor Laura Kuenssberg, the ITV News political editor Robert Peston and senior political correspondents from the Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Sun, Financial Times and The Guardian.
The Daily Mirrors political editor Pippa Crerar said: I felt deeply uncomfortable being left to stand on one side of the room while colleagues names were read out one-by-one and they joined the group who were deemed acceptable by No 10. Sinister and sad.
Dominic Cummings, special advisor for Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is seen outside Downing Street (Photo: REUTERS/Simon Dawson)
The clash comes amid deteriorating relations between Downing Street and the media.
The SNP culture spokesman, John Nicholson, said: Boris Johnson already hides from interviewers he finds too tough. Its an approach to the press borrowed from Trump.
Tracy Brabin, the shadow Culture Secretary, said: It is concerning that Boris Johnson seems to be resorting to tactics imported from Donald Trump to hide from scrutiny.
The deputy Commons speaker, Dame Eleanor Laing, told MPs: Accredited lobby journalists are indeed part of our parliamentary community and so, of course, must be, should be, and normally are treated with respect.
A Number 10 source said: We reserve the right to brief journalists which we choose whenever we wish to, and that is not something abnormal.
No one is banned people are invited for an additional briefing, so that sort of language, in itself, is wrong.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: As ministers are now… boycotting certain programmes and journalists, this represents another very dangerous step.
It is a collection of around 250 journalists representing an array of regional, national and ­international media outlets, all of whom report on the daily comings and goings of Westminster.
Journalists are given a lobby pass, which allows them to access the Parliamentary estate and therefore listen to debates in the Commons and Lords ­chambers, select committee hearings or simply meet MPs and their advisers. It also allows them access to the twice-daily lobby briefing delivered by the Prime Ministers official spokesman.
The lobby briefing used to be held for the most part in the House of Commons, so any journalist with  a pass could attend and ask ­questions about government ­business. But now all briefings are held in Downing Street, which has its own security, giving No 10 the power over who comes and goes.
If No 10 decides it no longer likes a certain outlet, it can simply refuse to allow it entry to these important briefings.