'Hunched ball of scarlet crossness' Jim Sheridan MP suggests name-calling journalists should be banned from Parliament

The day after Parliament imposed a new regulation regime on the press – Labour MP Jim Sheridan appeared to question the right of some journalists to enter the Houses of Parliament.

The comment from Labour backbencher Jim Sheridan came as the Culture, Media and Sport Committee took evidence from the Hacked Off pressure group on proposals for regulating the press.

In an apparent swipe at Commons sketchwriters, Sheridan said: "What concerns me is the parasitical elements within the press who abuse their position in here (Parliament) in terms of hiding behind their pen and calling people names.

"That's the so-called brave people. I don't understand why they are allowed to come into this place and behave in the way that they do."

Sheridan was criticised by newspapers during the expenses scandal for claiming a 42-inch plasma television and an "ivory leather bed".

The Paisley and Renfrewshire North MP previously urged a bar on Commons sketchwriters in 2009, taking issue with their "prejudiced" description of former speaker Lord Martin as "Gorbals Mick".

In a joint statement, the Parliamentary Press Gallery and Lobby said they were "dismayed" at Mr Sheridan's call.

"Journalists have enjoyed unfettered access to Parliament since 1803, when the numbers of people crowded into the public galleries to hear prime minister William Pitt the Younger speak on the Napoleonic Wars forced reporters from their usual seats in the Commons chamber," the spokesman said.

"Speaker Abbot recognised then the need to protect the right of reporters to be in the press gallery.

"In the 210 years since then, few parliamentarians have questioned the vital place of journalists, whether they be lobby correspondents, press gallery reporters, sketchwriters or bloggers, in Westminster.

"We are dismayed that Jim Sheridan has chosen to do so today and are sure that he will think better of his remarks when he reflects upon them."

Posting on Twitter this evening, the MP claimed he had been "misquoted" in reporting of the televised session.

"Press in Parliament important but when attacking MPs appearances instead of policies said they should be banned. Have been misquoted.”

Quentin Letts, writing in the Daily Mail, said: “Mr Sheridan has long been one of the sketchwriting guild’s best clients. He is just such fun to describe, a hunched ball of scowling, scarlet crossness, steaming like a Chinaman’s laundry.”

He added later that perhaps Sheridan has a point.

“You do not have to be there in the flesh to see what a donkey Jim Sheridan is. Via the electronic television set, it is just as obvious from a distance of many a country mile.”

Sheridan said later on Twitter: “Press in Parliament important but when attacking MPs appearances instead of policies said they should be banned. Have been misquoted.”

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