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23 April 2015

The Doghouse Diaries: is it news when political parties bar journalists from election events?

Hell hath no fury like a lobby correspondent denied access to a press conference.

By Media Mole

A bit of a rumpus on Fleet Street, as political hacks battle over who was and wasn’t invited to whose party. By party, I mean press conference. And by battle, I mean moan on Twitter.

Marina Hyde, the Guardian columnist, wrote a blistering piece about a Boris and Dave event on the campaign trail where they did a jigsaw puzzle and hand-painting (British political life, ladies and gentlemen). And in it she mentioned the Guardian’s lesser status according to CCHQ:

…it was impossible to watch them doing the puzzle unless you wrote for Murdoch, Rothermere or the Barclay brothers…

…the pair visited a day nursery in Surbiton – and access to the secret weapon was granted to one reporter each from the Times, the Sun, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, and a single camera crew, while the Guardian was cordoned outside.

The paper, with a maniacal level of self-indulgence, splashed on these revelations:

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While this mole finds such a front page more than a little navel-gazing, and can think of nothing the Guardian would love more than being restrained by Tory press officers, it finds the rightwing press reaction to the story amusing.

Here’s the Sun’s political editor on the matter:


And the Mail:


The Times points out it was also NFI:


And the Standard feels left out:

Although an ultimately counterproductive tactic, it comes as no surprise to this mole that the parties are keeping unsympathetic journos at arm’s length.

Hacks have been left out in the cold a number of times over this election. LabourList’s Mark Ferguson wasn’t initially allowed a Tory conference press pass last year (though he eventually was able to attend). Reporters from BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post were blocked from attending a Ukip press conference around the time of Mark Reckless’s defection, whereas print journalists were allowed. And journalists from the Telegraph, Daily Mail, and Daily Express were barred from Alex Salmond’s resignation press conference after the Scottish referendum, to name just a few examples.

Whether you see this as an insidious silencing of the free press, or simply as pragmatic damage limitation, this mole still finds the most poignant part of this story to be summed up below: