How Standard stopped presses for Brown scoop

Editor Geordie Greig yesterday stopped the presses of the Evening Standard letting the final edition go at 3.30pm with exclusive news that Gordon Brown was set to resign as Prime Minister.

An image of the front page was with Sky News by 4pm and the paper was on the streets by 4.30pm. TV news bulletins were attributing the story to the Standard until around 6pm when BBC political editor Nick Robinson began reporting the news that Brown was “thought by colleagues to be considering his position”.

Evening Standard political editor Joe Murphy told Press Gazette today: “It was becoming clear from lunchtime onwards to us that the Lib-Lab talks had gone nowhere.”

He said there was a team effort from the Standard’s political staff to find out from all sides that coalition talks between Labour and the Liberal Democrats were dead in the water.

He added: “From there it was about getting to people who were as close to Gordon Brown as possible to find out where that left him. There were a lot of phone calls.”

Murphy said that at 3pm, with the presses on the Standard’s 600,000-print-run already overdue, ‘a good source said that the Prime Minister was believed to be considering his future”. He said that after more phone calls, they decided to run with the front page lead: “BROWN QUITS AS PRIME MINISTER” at 3.30pm.

The story was apparently denied by a Downing Street source to the BBC at around 5pm.

Murphy said: “I was extremely confident about the story but wondering why nobody else was standing it up. It did raise the tension levels slightly. When the Prime Minister eventually did come out [at 7.15pm] I was too engrossed by his incredible performance outside Number Ten to really think about the scoop because it was totally absorbing.”

Asked to reflect on what the last few days have been like for political reporters, Murphy said: “It’s been relentless but it’s been fascinating. It’s been the most interesting time for me since the downfall of Margaret Thatcher.

“I’ve felt privileged to be able to report on this and I can’t wait to get stuck into this new Government, it’s going to be amazing.”

The Evening Standard was the only newspaper to have two journalists in Press Gazette’s list of the top 50 political reporters, published in the April edition of the magazine: political editor Murphy and deputy political editor Paul Waugh.

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