22nd August 2017
Many deride and dislike the “lobby” system, based on Whitehall briefing and ongoing relationships between Westminster journalists and contacts.
But if that is where the useful information is, then it (sort of) works. It is the horse for the course.
The thing, however, about Brexit is that often little useful information is currently in Whitehall/Westminster – and so there is sometimes bluff and bluster instead.
In this way, Brexit simply does not suit the lobby model of political news reporting. And that is why disproportionate space is currently given to empty off-record stuff.
This is not to criticise the lobby. There are many great journalists. But the key information is not now often with Westminster and Whitehall contacts and sources. It is instead coming from Brussels.
The Brussels desks of most UK news organisations are now better guides to how Brexit will affect the UK than anyone with lobby passes.
But the UK government still thinks domestic media are the most important audience. Ministers are approaching Brexit with a “lobby” mentality.
And so we have daft embargoes and Davis giving desperate interviews, while UK lags behind on position papers and proper preparation.
UK may still get its Brexit act together, but ministers need to stop thinking only in Westminster/Whitehall/lobby terms. The true battleground is elsewhere.
Many say Percival lost Singapore because things were pointed in the wrong direction (though some say otherwise). Brexit ministers risk making a similar mistake.
(This post is based on this thread.)
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