Journalists have snubbed a Number 10 Downing Street briefing this afternoon, after several publications were banned from attending.
The Mirror, i Newspaper, PoliticsHome, The Independent, and several others were told by Lee Cain, a senior adviser to Boris Johnson, that they were not on the list.
In what can only be seen as an effort to divide and embarrass those who were not on the list, the Journalists were lined up on two sides of a rug in the entrance to Number 10. Those who were on the list on one side, and those who were banned on the other.
According to journalists who were there, Cain then told those who were not on the list that they must leave the building.
In what appears to be a PR faux pas by Number 10, the rest of the lobby backed up their colleagues and followed them out of the door. Protesting journalists include high profile, household names, including the BBC’s Political Editor, Laura Kuennsberg, and ITV‘s Political Editor, Robert Peston.
It is understood that not a single journalist attended the briefing.
The National Union of Journalists’ general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet reacted with alarm, saying; “Political journalists were right to act in solidarity and walk out of a Number 10 briefing on the EU, when colleagues were barred from attending. If reports are true, and reporters from The Mirror, i, Huffington Post, PoliticsHome, Independent and others were denied access by government senior adviser Lee Cain, this is a very alarming incident.
“Government officials should not be attacking freedom of the press this way. As ministers are now regularly refusing to be accountable for their actions by boycotting certain programmes and journalists, this represents another very dangerous step. Johnson’s government must stop this paranoia and engage with all the press, not just their favourites.”
The matter of fact here is that if Number 10 want to take on the lobby, they will lose. Journalists are renowned for being very competitive and wanting to get to the story first – I know, I am one. That said, journalists are also very loyal, and are a tight knit bunch, who regardless of who you write for, or who’s television station you appear on, will always have your back.
Number 10 alienating the Westminster press lobby is a fatal mistake. Any Prime Minister that loses the media, quite simply loses control of his government. A Prime Minister without the support of the press will see their effectiveness drain away, like watching grains of sand pouring through an egg-timer – the end result being a change of leadership or government.
My last word on this – 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.
— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) February 3, 2020
I can safely say that in 22 years of being a political journalist, I've never experienced a day like today.
No.10 sources now insisting that political editors like myself "are not banned, they are just not invited".https://t.co/tcWGZeHSot
— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) February 3, 2020
Congratulations to my Westminster Journalist colleagues for standing firm against Number 10's Baby Trumpism. Quite right. https://t.co/XwMdQv84AA
— Adam Boulton (@adamboultonSKY) February 3, 2020