Tracy Brabin MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport yesterday addressed the lobby walkout by political journalists from Downing Street in a Parliamentary Urgent Questions session.
Brabin’s office contacted the Society of Editors to discuss the issues in advance of the Urgent Questions on February 4. During Brabin’s opening questions to Chloe Smith MP, who was representing the government, the Shadow Secretary raised the issue of the lack of an official response to the SoE’s letter about changes to the lobby, signed by all national newspaper editors. Brabin stated:
“On January 13 those national papers, with the Society of Editors, wrote to the Prime Minister. We still don’t have the reply.”
In her speech, Brabin stressed the importance of a healthy relationship between the media and Downing Street to democracy; tenets which were voiced in the Society’s statement on the walkout on February 4. Brabin continued:
“The government’s behaviour in these matters […] brings into question the integrity of future government media briefings and the conduct of its special advisors, and damages a free and vibrant press which is central to this parliamentary democracy.”
In response to Brabin’s questions, Chloe Smith MP stated she was “more than happy to repeat the points I’ve made” in her position as representative on the matter. She reiterated the government “is committed to being open in its dealings with the press and to the principles of media freedom”.
Today, the Culture Secretary Baroness Nicky Morgan also took questions on matters pertaining to the media. When asked about the walkout of political journalists, Lady Morgan responded:
“At the end of the day I don’t think it serves anybody for this as a debate to be continuing. I hope very much that, actually, the best thing would be for the co-chairs of the press lobby here at Westminster to sit down with the director of communications and to work this out because … actually what’s needed is communicating clearly to the public about the tricky issues that this government is dealing with.”
The SoE awaits an official reply from Number 10’s Director of Communications with regards to resolving the matter of access to briefings by all lobby journalists.