Journalistic Silencing

In the last few days, we have seen reports of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s Downing Street attempting to exclude some journalists from press reports.

This is utterly disgusting behaviour by Her Majesty’s Government, and I am proud to hear that the remaining journalists refused to play along and also walked out.

However, the thought then dawned on me, what if this is what Cummings wants? Think about it. Downing Street wins either way.

Only two outcomes would’ve come out of this move

  1. The chosen outlets, those likely to spin Johnson in a favourable light (I.e. the Telegraph, Daily Mail, etc.) continue to do so, only spreading Johnson’s narrative rather than what is necessarily true.
  2. All journalists take a stand and walk out, leaving the public in the dark as to what is occurring in No. 10, and as such nobody can hold Johnson to account.

I have said before that Brexit would only harm British Democracy; it could never live up to what was promised and what was demanded; as such, the public will only lose more faith in the system.

Well, I was right, but I never expected to be right so soon or like this.

If the Cummings’s directed Downing Street’s actions are indicative of the future, we have a genuinely dark future ahead. We cannot repeat past failures, and we must hold Johnson accountable for everything he has allowed, every action his Government takes, every failure, every democratic backslide; no matter how much he tries to cover up or shroud his terrible decisions.

* Thomas Hague is a Sheffield Hallam University student currently on work placement with Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust. He has been a full member of the Party since November 2016

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26 Comments

  • John Marriott 5th Feb '20 - 9:40am

    If Dominic Cummings really wanted a mandate for what he is alleged to be doing he should first actually join a political party and/or, if all are below his intellectual bottom line, he should at least put himself forward in a bone fide election.

    Practitioners of the dark arts like him and his erstwhile college, Matthew Elliott, together with their weapon of choice, an unbridled social media, need reining in before it’s too late. No wonder that the first arm of the media to merit their attention seems to have been the news, both broadcast and printed. Remember what Martin Niemöller famously said: “First they came for the socialists …etc”. Should we change that to “First they came for the truth”?

  • Firstly the Lib Dems would never admit it, but they would love someone like Dominic Cummings to organise them. Secondly all previous governments have invited selected groups of journalists to briefings, as long as they continue to have daily briefings ( open to all) there is nothing really wrong with that. Thirdly trying to compare the Tory party to the Nazi’s is just plain wrong. It’s no wonder Johnson is so popular if this is the best the opposition can come up with.

  • Yes indeed these are extremely worrying times for us all although I expected nothing less from this government and the people behind their rise to power. I believe they are dangerous and se!f serving, what is needed more than ever is a free and unbiased media and press, something we have not had in quite a while perhaps this latest attempt to dictate the news by their spin doctors will change that???

  • Based on several reports this is what happened: After Johnson’s press briefing following his speech on Monday, a small group of editors from the major media organisations were invited to an additional briefing in the afternoon at No. 10 with David Frost, the Prime Minister’s Europe Advisor (a political appointee and not as the Labour Party falsely claimed, a civil servant). Such selective briefings have occurred on numerous occasions in the past under previous administrations. Those invited were from the BBC, Daily Mail, Guardian, ITV, Times, Financial Times, The Sun, Telegraph, and Sky News. Several smaller news organisations chose to turn up uninvited and were refused admission by Sir Robbie Gibb, Downing Street Director of Communications. A stand-off ensued cumulating in all the journalists staging a walkout in protest. The incident does not appear to have anything to do with Dominic Cummings.

  • Barry Lofty 5th Feb '20 - 11:59am

    That is not how the Editor of the “I” newspaper recalled the incident!

  • Peter Hayes 5th Feb '20 - 12:18pm

    Jeff can you confirm all political advisers are paid by their party not the tax payers, which would make them civil servants in all but name.

  • John Marriott 5th Feb '20 - 12:40pm

    @Jeff
    You may be an apologist for Johnson and company. Maybe not. However, whilst nothing can be proven regarding Mr Cummings, I suspect his dead hand on most of what Johnson is doing at the moment. The only gratifying outcome of this far from natural ‘selection’ was that ALL journalists left the room.

    I see that the government is now considering decriminalising failure to pay the licence fee. By all means have a consultation, although nothing appeared in the Tory manifesto, but some of us are bound to be suspicious. You see, while some people are quite happy to live their lives whichever political doctrine holds sway, some of us, who take a broader view and who actually value the kind of broadcasting offered in this country, do NOT want to end up with the kind of broadcasting that is available in, for example, the USA.

    I speak as a subscriber to both Netflix and Amazon Prime and, as a 76 year old, would be perfectly willing to carry on paying my licence fee, despite currently being exempt. Yes, I can afford to; but I would make sacrifices elsewhere if my free TV licence were taken away.

  • Paul Holmes 5th Feb '20 - 1:15pm

    Both the Mail and the Telegraph have published articles today which strongly condemn what was done. They note that whilst it is straight out of the Trump playlist it is not ‘how we do things in this country’.

  • Peter Hayes 5th Feb ’20 – 12:18pm:
    Jeff can you confirm all political advisers are paid by their party not the tax payers, which would make them civil servants in all but name.

    Good point. As I understand it, SpAd’s are all appointed by the Prime Minister (regardless of which department they work in) and are paid from public funds. Since they are not officially civil servants they are not bound by the Civil Service code. Even if they were to be paid by political parities they would still (in many cases) be conducting government business which needs to be scrutinised. That mostly happens with appearances in front of the appropriate parliamentry Select Committee. It seems to me that the system has arisen in order to avoid politicising the civil service. For example, it’s clearly unsatisfactory to appoint someone to engage in challenging negotiations, such as our withdrawal from the EU, who doesn’t believe in what they are doing. Yet, civil servants have a duty to be impartial and not engage in political activity. Perhaps it’s time SpAds were put on a more formal basis as ‘political civil servants’ who automatically lose their jobs when the administration is voted out?

  • Innocent Bystander 5th Feb '20 - 2:17pm

    We can’t fix this but the media can. They just need a bit of solidarity and King Dom will soon change his tune.
    As to the licence fee, that is there to protect the nanny state, not the BBC, and those who like it will still be able to enjoy it with a subscription funded model. It might be slightly smaller but will remain a large and popular broadcaster.
    The only thing its admirers will lose is their endless repetition of why they like it and why the rest of us MUST like it too.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 5th Feb '20 - 2:51pm

    The piece is a panic. We have no news other than from those in the news. We do have a review of the criminal charge for non payment of the tv licence. This supposedly liberal party happen to favour decriminalisation of prostitution, pimping, drugs, but not the poor who cannot afford to pay a monopoly bureaucracy what is to them a huge sum.

    No wonder I consider now being independent, from parties…

  • For those, on here, following the government line that ‘nothing has changed’, the journalists (of all shades) thought it had; hence the ‘boycott’,

  • “Nothing has changed” is the watch phrase of our Brexi’s and Lexi’s and it will continue to be until something changes for them. Then, well they will squeal like a piggy; but it will be far too late.

  • Innocent Bystander. I don’t listen to Radio 1. I am not obliged to like it. But I am happy to pay for it through the Licence Fee as part of the BBC mix. Clearly the Government is not happy about me being happy.

  • Yousuf Farah 5th Feb '20 - 6:28pm

    There are even rumours; I don’t know whether they are true or false, that Cummings even has a hand in writing the upcoming Budget. At this point, either Johnson is weak, or he’s purposely let his aide off the leash, and now we have a potentially dangerous, overmighty spin doctor, lowkey running the country.

  • Innocent Bystander 5th Feb '20 - 7:14pm

    Geoff,
    Please don’t be offended but it doesn’t matter to the rest of us what radio stations you like or don’t like.
    I am sure you will be equally happy when paying a BBC subscription instead of a licence fee. The rest of us are forced to pay for a service which we never use so we can own a TV set and watch something else altogether. Thankfully a government has emerged which realises the utter indefensibility of that and is moving to the situation where you get to pay for what you like and we get to pay for what we like with no compulsion involved at all.

  • Innocent Bystander 5th Feb ’20 – 7:14pm………Thankfully a government has emerged which realises the utter indefensibility of that and is moving to the situation where you get to pay for what you like and we get to pay for what we like with no compulsion involved at all………………

    I agree; and why stop there? Childless couples shouldn’t have to pay for the education of other people’s kids, non-drivers for roads, the employed for the unemployed, etc, etc.
    BTW,,I will never use HS2 so take my name off the £106 billion bill…

  • Innocent Bystander 5th Feb '20 - 10:40pm

    @expats
    I quite agree that VED and fuel duty should rise to place the burden of road cost onto drivers and encourage house buyers to buy near to public transport routes.
    HS2 is an larceny on a grand scale and I wouldn’t pay for that either. I, too, hope the new govt. will both close it and send in the fraud squad to determine who has managed to “get through” all the existing funding quite so quickly.
    To compare education and support for the jobless with matters of real importance like “Mrs Browns Boys” and “Eastenders” is descent into true farce and shows how desperate the corporation’s supporters now are.
    We will see what this govt. will do to it in the five years it has (or maybe ten or even fifteen).

  • Innocent Bystander 5th Feb ’20 – 10:40pm…..

    WoW! Your first paragraph is irrational. Every truck and bus uses the roads and, with the poor/nonexistence of rural transport cars are an essential means of travel; often for the elderly and infirm. As for buying homes only on public transport routes; it was the public transport that left the houses.

    To pretend that “Mrs Browns Boys” and “Eastenders” is reflective of the BBC is the real farce.

    BTW..I agree about HS2 so you can write rationally..

  • So “rationally” means “agree with me”?

  • John Adamson 6th Feb '20 - 9:58am

    Whilst growing up in this country, I always thought that this was a caring place to live. The stupidity of youth

  • Nigel Jones 6th Feb '20 - 10:10am

    @Paul Holmes; it was said on Newsnight that journalists of all kinds think government behaviour on this is wrong. However, it does indicate that government now wishes to restrict scrutiny as much as it can; it is based on the view that once elected government should be free to do what it perceives it was elected for. It is very worrying, given their attitude to the BBC, to Parliament (and Tony Blair was a bit that way here) and to the judiciary. Add in the factor that over 80% of the media is owned by rich right wing people, plus Boris’ moves to use social media for thoroughly biased messages in the way that Brexiteers have done for the last 5 years and the situation is extremely worrying.
    Maybe there needs to be movement of people who will not just worry but campaign to inform the public of the consequences of what is going on. Who can organise and lead this ?

  • Tom Harney 6th Feb ’20 – 8:40am……….So “rationally” means “agree with me”?………..

    When doesn’t it?

  • Innocent Bystander 6th Feb '20 - 11:58am

    @expats
    We bought a house in a town with facilities to which we can walk, a bus service which is well used and a rail station with four trains every hour. Our garden is small and for the same outlay we could have had much more land but far away from the places we need to be. That would mean that we would need to be in the car continuously or expect the council to provide us with a regular (empty) bus.
    You are going to have to face these very rational points that transport is expensive and damaging to the environment.
    My time in the US and Canada showed this to the extreme where they enjoy lots of space but burn huge amounts of fuel getting around (in even huger vehicles).
    The perils of climate change may force us to live in densely packed communities with centralised heating systems leaving the open spaces for solar and wind farms.
    Who knows? but fleets of cars and buses driving around sparsely populated rural areas can’t go on for ever.

  • nvelope2003 6th Feb '20 - 1:00pm

    expats: As someone who lives in a rural area I should point out that it was the people who left the buses and trains when they bought their cars, not the other way round.

    Watching Boris Johnson on TV he seems to be completely out of his depth and unable to give a rational answer to even the simplest question. Obviously he has been put into this position because he can be controlled by those who have their own agenda.

  • Peter Hirst 6th Feb '20 - 5:35pm

    It is a dark day for our democracy when bona fide journalists are banned from government press conferences. The reasons should be made clear and appeals allowed. How can the media perform their role if excluded from such events?

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