Guido Fawkes is facing off against the Lobby, the cohort of political journalists based in Westminster, by reporting live from Government briefings in defiance of the group’s code.
Tweets marked with the hashtag #No10Briefing sent yesterday and today from Guido’s official Twitter account revealed the content of the morning briefings with the Government’s spokesperson as they happened.
Guido editor Paul Staines, who supported Johnson’s Tory leadership bid, has said his reporters are not members of the Lobby and therefore are not obliged to follow the “quaint rules” set by the “cartel”.
This includes journalists refraining from reporting anything said in the briefing until it has finished, a custom designed to stop reporters gaining an advantage over each other by breaking news during the meeting.
The Lobby is currently fighting changes to its operations brought in by Boris Johnson’s new administration, which has moved all briefings out of the Lobby room at the House of Commons to Number 9 Downing Street.
The group has raised “significant concerns” over the changes, which were imposed without consultation at the start of the year.
The editor of every national news title in the UK signed a letter to the Government last week asking it to reconsider the changes, but so far Number 10 is refusing to meet and discuss journalists’ concerns.
Guido’s tweets have reportedly caused anger among some Lobby journalists who raised the matter during this morning’s press briefing – Guido tweeted that there had been “hacks shouting at hacks”.
The right-leaning blogging site, which takes its name from gunpowder plotter Guy Fawkes, also reported that the Prime Minister’s spokesperson James Slack said it was up to the Lobby to enforce its rules on members.
The Lobby is made up of accredited political journalists from across the national, regional and foreign press, news agencies and broadcasters and forms part of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.
Guido’s reporters do not have Lobby passes, but parliamentary security passes that offer the same level of access. As the morning briefing is hosted by the Government they do not require the Lobby’s permission to attend.
Following complaints from other journalists about Guido’s tweets, Lobby chairman and Telegraph chief political correspondent Christopher Hope sent an email to junior reporter Christian Calgie, who had attended the briefing, with a copy of the Lobby rules attached.
In an email response to Hope, Staines said: “If your cartel wants to enforce anti-competitive rules on its members that is one thing.
“If you attempt to enforce those rules on us, or restrain us from going about our business in any way, we will not hesitate to seek a remedy under the law.
“You say this rule exists so that ‘no one gets an advantage’. A prominent Brexiteer like yourself should understand the advantages of avoiding regulatory alignment with a sclerotic organisation.”
Staines has confirmed to Press Gazette that Guido will continue to live tweet from morning press briefings “when we feel it might be of interest to our readers”. Afternoon briefings are for Lobby members only, it is understood.
Guido has been a vocal critic of the Lobby system and previously called for briefings to be more transparent, suggesting they be televised.
No one ever got a scoop from a Lobby briefing. https://t.co/FDg8olnpFl
— Guido Fawkes (@GuidoFawkes) January 3, 2020
Picture: Pixabay/Press Gazette