Guido Fawkes: Lobby briefings should be televised

Political blogger Paul Staines has called for parliamentary lobby briefings to be televised – and called the current system “a cartel”.

Giving evidence at the Leveson inquiry this afternoon, Staines, who runs the Guido Fawkes blog, said the current system of accreditation and access for parliamentary journalists was antiquated and “unhealthy” for transparency.

“It’s a cartel,” he told the inquiry.

The authorities in parliament won’t give you access to the parliamentary estate unless you’re on the lobby list. I have to go into parliament as a visitor. It makes it difficult for me to get access to the main players.

I don’t think it’s a very healthy system. Former chairmen of the lobby have said its antiquated.

Staines said the Westminster “lobby terms” – where journalists are briefed anonymously – meant reporters became “complicit in politicians’ lies”.

He added:

Downing Street sources normally means the journalist is in a briefing room, being fed the line. Just put it on TV.

The lobby functions like an obedience school for journalists – play the game and we’ll reward you. If you rock the boat you won’t get access.

During his appearance at at the Leveson inquiry, Staines also repeated a claim he made on his blog that Tina Weaver, editor of the Sunday Mirror, knew about and authorised phone hacking and blagging.

2 thoughts on “Guido Fawkes: Lobby briefings should be televised

  1. Jonathan Walker

    You can get access to Parliament without being a lobby journalist. There are journalists with passes who are not members of the lobby.

    “Downing Street sources” can just as easily mean you phoned up a spin doctor (a Special Political Adviser or SPAD) in Number 10. In fact, it’s more likely to mean that. Lobby briefings would usually be attributed to the “Prime Minister’s Spokesman”, a guy named Steve Field (his name is public – Downing Street put out a press release which you can find on the official site). Like most PR people, he is usually called a spokesman rather than named, but that’s nothing to do with the mysterious lobby.

    It’s certainly true that politicians and SPADs sometimes talk to journalists, and bloggers including Paul, on a “you didn’t hear this from me” basis. That’s got nothing to do with the lobby. It’s not really got anything to do with politics, as reporters in other fields with have contacts who talk to them on that basis too.

    Paul Staines claims that the lobby system means rewarding people for playing the game, but in fact lobby briefings are open to journalists no matter how nasty they have been to the government. Also, they are open to journalists even if you write for a smaller paper (eg it’s an occasion when a journalist for a local paper, like me, is on a level playing field with the political editor of the Sun).

    In fact, what’s good about the lobby is that it is official, on the record and relatively open. The regionals can go, the current lobby chairman is blog editor Paul Waugh from Politics Home. Abolish the regular official briefings and it will *all* be on a nudge nudge wink wink basis. Put it on the telly and you’ll just end up with ten hacks from different bits of the BBC asking questions simply so they have footage of *themselves* to show – just like other televised press conferences.

    Paul might make some valid points about political reporting but he is wrong too conflate those with the lobby system.

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