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Telegraph reporters got 'no special treatment' over Boris columns, says lobby chief

Telegraph chief political correspondent Christopher Hope has shed light on the paper’s relationship with Prime Minister and ex-columnist Boris Johnson, saying he’s strictly “Mr Johnson” in copy.

Johnson was paid a £275,000 salary by the paper for his columns – many of which made the front page – prior to his taking office last month when he was congratulated by Telegraph chief executive Nick Hugh.

Hope, who joined the Telegraph in 2003, told the Media Masters podcast: “I work in the lobby in the House of Commons and it’s my duty to try and treat it all as a – he’s PM.

“He’s Mr Johnson in copy, he’s not Boris. And that’s how we try and do it.”

He added: “Of course we had his column on Sunday evenings coming in at six o’clock and [that] might give us a splash about some remark he’s made or some controversial comment or a turn of phrase, but we get no special treatment about it.

“We got the column in advance, but nothing to explain it. No phone call from him to me. He never called the lobby office.

“Where I sit, I’m in a group of around six reporters reporting on politics for the Telegraph. He was just basically another politician. It’s hard to understand that, looking in from outside.”

Hope said Johnson “may talk to the editor a bit, I don’t know that”, but added: “Certainly my experience [was] dealing with him like an MP.”

Hope is currently chairman of the parliamentary lobby – a group of more than 100 journalists based at Westminster who are invited to daily Government briefings.

The political reporter also dismissed criticism that lobby journalism is a “cosy insider system” and that journalists who “play ball” are fed morsels of news in return.

Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes, told the podcast in 2016 that “lobby journalism is too close to the subjects of its enquiry”.

“That’s utter bullshit,” Hope said.

“And what Paul knows is that he’s describing modern day journalism, not lobby journalism… If you read his brilliant Order, Order website… it’s all there.

“He has the same standards of reporting that we do. He takes some things on the record, some things off the record. That’s all it is. There’s no club here.”

Touching on his duties as chairman of the lobby, Hope said he tries to help regional newspaper journalists gain access to politicians.

“I try and open up the lobby to, not really to the big papers but the guy from the Newcastle Journal or the Birmingham Post – you know, the one-man band in the commons trying to report all the politics.

“I try and help that person get access, know what’s going on and help them do their job.”

Picture: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

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