Downing Street to End `Exclusive' Daily Briefings for Lobby Journalists
Waugh, Paul, The Independent (London, England)
TONY BLAIR'S frustration at media coverage of his Government was underlined emphatically yesterday when his office announced that the 70- year tradition of Downing Street briefings for lobby journalists would be scrapped this autumn.
Alastair Campbell, the Government's director of communications and strategy, revealed that a daily press conference would be held instead at the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in St James's. In an attempt to sidestep journalists based in Westminster, specialist and overseas reporters currently excluded from No 10 briefings will be invited to attend.
Mr Campbell claimed that the changes were part of a process of "opening up" relations between the Government and the media, which has seen the Prime Minister host his first personal press conference and allow select committees to question him at length.
As an important part of Mr Blair's drive to speak more "directly" to the public, over the heads of the press, the new style of briefing will run in tandem with his own press conferences, the second of which takes place today.
Mr Campbell said that the success of the first prime ministerial question- and-answer session last month had confirmed that it was "in the public interest" to widen the morning briefing. However, critics claim that as a former member of the Westminster press pack himself, Mr Campbell is also exacting his revenge against a lobby system of exclusive access that he loathes. …