Charlie Whelan says . . .
Don't believe it - "Blair to spike guns of political reporters"
Guess what sort of journalist had their byline under that splash? Yes, you've guessed it, a political reporter. I can just imagine the horror with which news of the government's decision to end the morning lobby was greeted in the Press Gallery.
Never mind that all Alastair Campbell announced was an invitation to other hacks to the 11am bunfight in Downing Street. This was an affront to the best and most professional hacks in the world. It was their job to ask what colour underpants the Prime Minister wore, or what he was doing when he heard that David Beckham had broken his foot.
George Jones, of the Daily Telegraph, was indignant. He called this "the biggest shake-up in the system of political reporting in decades". It was all a plot by Tony Blair to "gain control of the news agenda". The invitation to the Downing Street briefings are to be opened up to all journalists in an attempt to "reduce the influence of the parliamentary lobby system".
He should have written "to reduce the self-importance of the lobby". Did you know that it was "intense questioning from the lobby" that forced Alastair Campbell to stop giving official briefings? That's according to George Jones. He refers to the lobby as "a privileged group". I've had the privilege of attending lobby briefings. If they were abolished completely tomorrow the only thing that would change is the "privilege" of the hacks and the reporting of politics, which could only get better. If lobby members really thought they were being "downgraded", then they could easily just not turn up in Downing Street every day. But who would spoon-feed them then?