Alex Hilton: Lobby prepares to turn on Labour

Individually, journalists are generally polite and friendly, as likely as anyone else to hold a door open for an elderly lady.

Alex Hilton
Alex Hilton

Collectively, however, they operate like a pack of hyenas; and this summer Labour MPs should prepare to be mauled.

The Norwich election victory for the Conservatives has helped journalists calculate that the Tory lead is now more or less unassailable. And this leaves just one question for the lobby pack; at what point should they burn their Labour sources?

For 12 years, political journalists have been nurturing Labour MPs and insiders as sources for stories about the Government; and the quid pro quo is that those sources are protected or else they will dry up. So the whole lobby is awash with stories about Labour MPs that they haven't yet published.

The same happened in the latter months of the John Major government. At that time there was a race to get out all the dirt before the election, at which time a story about a government minister would be downgraded to a story about an ex-MP.

In August we will hear the starting gun for the great burning of Labour sources. The recession has also seen large-scale cutbacks in newspaper staff, putting journalists under increasing pressure to provide more stories in the same timeframe. Added to that, journalists have to provide online content too.

If that's not enough, the lobby knows stories hitting the Government will be noted by Cameron's communications chief Andy Coulson, who has seemingly emerged unscathed from the phone-hacking affair. Burning Labour sources now will be rewarded with access to a Conservative government.

At this stage there is only one way for Labour to prevent this bloodbath. Very soon, in the next month or so, Gordon Brown has to look like he might win the election. If he doesn't, he will see an acceleration of scandal that will achieve unstoppable momentum and many of his MPs will have to watch their personal lives and their careers picked over like carrion.

- Alex Hilton is a Labour parliamentary candidate and founder of political blogs Labourhome and Recess Monkey.

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