My bete noir, Guido Fawkes, makes a number of very good points in his article in the Times today. The Westminster lobby is a cabal. Print journalists should have exposed Damian McBride and his wrecking crew long since. The parliamentary system has been corrupted by the explicit and implicit deals done between governments and journalists over access to important stories.
I suffered from this myself in the ten years or so I spent in the Lobby from 1989 -1999. It was a very unpleasant place in many respects. Hacks are extremely insecure and require a reliable stream of stories to please their editors. No stories, no jobs. This allowed people like Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell to have undue power over a sometimes supine and biddable press corps.
I well recall Campbell marching up and down the press gallery, where political hacks are stuffed into airless and overcrowded rooms, like a drill sergeant at boot camp. He would march up behind you and bark about the bollocks you were writing and how real journalists would cover real stories and not just this process. The real stories of course were the ones being peddled by his lot.
However, the annoying truth was that Campbell, like all spin doctors, did have a lot of genuine stories to farm out. It was not too difficult to build a career on courting a couple of leading spinners and dining out on the exclusives you were given. I was – am – a columnist paid to comment and reflect – so I had the luxury of not having to beg for stories to keep my job.
The other way that leading spinners – MPs as well as press secretaries – would deal with journalists they didn’t like was to approach their editors direct to tell them how incompetent the errant hack actually was. “So and so – really, he’s completely out of his/her depth. Never gets any stories. Nobody speaks to him”. Happened to lots of us. In fact, it’s amazing that some many stories do come into the public domain. That’s where the role of a parlimentary opposition comes in.