OPINION: Lobby plays catch-up after missing scoop

The series of scoops in PRWeek detailing the changes in the Prime Minister's office have left the lobby struggling to catch up and - not for the first time - looking stupid.

Charlie Whelan
Charlie Whelan

You would expect the hundreds of political scribes based in Westminster to have more detailed knowledge of what was happening in Downing Street than the PRWeek team based in Hammersmith. You would be wrong.

The lobby relies on being fed stories while other journalists do it the old-fashioned way; by sheer hard work and digging around.

The fact many political hacks were scooped by PRWeek has not stopped the lobby writing thousands of words on the comings and goings of Downing Street's backroom staff. As ever they are more interested in the process of politics than the politics themselves. That is why, when the PM headed up to Scotland for a major speech to the Scottish Labour Conference, not one Westminster hack attended.

As it happens, the latest PRWeek story exposing the new Number 10 hatchet man Stephen Carter's search for a new speech writer was hugely relevant.

Unknown to nearly everyone, Gordon Brown planned to use his Scottish conference speech to set out a new style of speaking without notes. Of course David Cameron had done the speech before, though they were entirely different in style as well as substance.

Cameron's effort didn't go down that well with the hacks at the time. It only seemed magnificent when compared with David Davis's effort the next day in what was one of the worst speeches ever delivered.

But Brown's effort was very well received, at least by those present. Veteran Tory columnist for The Daily Telegraph, Alan Cochrane, described it as the best Brown speech for 20 years. For those not present (!) such as The Independent's Ben Russell, Brown came 'unstuck' with his new style.

Incidentally this analysis came in the same article that followed the PRWeek scoop of Carter looking for a new speech writer. The Indy thought that it had to report a crap speech to justify the story.

Carter's new regime has apparently upset all the old-guard Brownites, including yours truly, who one paper had working 'in a fishing business' despite the fact I have been political director of the union Unite for six months.

The truth is that most people have welcomed Carter's appointment because they could see that a shake-up in Number 10 was necessary. Pity we won't see a similar shake up in the lobby.

Email: charlie.whelan@haymarket.com  

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