Editors call on the Prime Minister to review Westminster lobby changes
It’s a long time since relations between the press, local government officials and councillors was like this at Strathclyde Regional Council in the 1970s.
By Democrat reporter
Spin doctors have been asked to take their feet off the necks of reporters covering political affairs.
An open letter signed by every national newspaper editor as well as several prominent regional and broadcast editors has been sent to the Prime Minister this morning calling on Mr Johnson to address concerns over the newly introduced system for Westminster lobby correspondents.
And West Dunbartonshire Council and the SNP administration have scored The Dumbarton Democrat off their list of accredited media correspondents.
While we are proud of this and look upon it as a badge of honour for pressing the local authority to the limit, we would like to see the matter resolved in order to continue with our work in 2020.
Organised by the Society of Editors, the letter calls on the PM to assist in opening consultation on the new lobby arrangements between Number 10 and the media after changes were imposed at the start of the new year.
In his letter, executive director of the Society of Editors Ian Murray explains how many editors are concerned the new arrangements, which force lobby correspondents to leave Parliament and travel to Downing Street for the twice-daily briefings, will hamper coverage of open government.
Correspondents now have to negotiate the Downing Street security system before attending the briefings held at Number 9 Downing Street and cannot take mobile phones.
In his letter, countersigned by the editors of every national newspaper as well as prominent regional and broadcast journalists, Murray asks that assurances be given that the new system will not be used to deny individual correspondents access to the briefings.
Democrat editor, Bill Heaney, said: “The Council and their political masters, the SNP administration, have decreed in an arrogant, anti-democratic manner that all co-operation should be withdrawn from the Democrat by their Communications Department.
“This move by the Conservatives comes hard on the heels of the General Election which took the country further to the right in politics and is no surprise.
“In West Dunbartonshire, members of the electorate have been locked out of what we supposed to be public meetings on a number of occasions.
“More and more official reports are being extensively redacted (page after page blanked out to prevent the public seeing them) and whole meetings are being held in private.
“Councillors of all political colours should think black burning shame of themselves for letting the Chief Executive away with this without placing it on the official agenda and asking the permission of the whole council.”