From Snakepit to the Lion's Den - the Hacks Who Long to Be MPs

By Palmer, Mark | The Evening Standard (London, England), February 28, 2001 | Go to article overview

From Snakepit to the Lion's Den - the Hacks Who Long to Be MPs


Palmer, Mark, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: MARK PALMER

YOU'RE ambitious and you're fascinated by the machinations of Whitehall. Your own politics are left of centre and you're not averse to wielding a certain amount of power. You think you're influential. Then, along comes a man with a magic wand and offers you a choice: would you prefer to be the political editor of The Guardian or a backbench Labour MP?

"I would be a backbench MP every time," says Martin Linton, Labour MP for Battersea since 1997 but before that a journalist for nearly 30 years, mainly with The Guardian.

"It gives you a lot more satisfaction. You have to be very arrogant to believe that as a journalist you have real influence. A handful of columnists might fall into that category but most hacks spend their time recording what other people have said or done. I remember watching from the Press Gallery in the Commons and longing to jump over the rail."

The impending General Election will throw up a number of candidates anxious to jump over the rail. And you could argue that it's not such a big leap - from the snakepit to the lion's den, from one despised profession to another, both replete with unsociable hours, heavy drinking, gossip and intrigue. But that's not how the likes of Paul Goodman, comment editor of The Daily Telegraph, Lucy Shersby, a news sub-editor at The Sun (and daughter of the former Tory MP for Uxbridge, the late Sir Michael Shersby) and Paul Farrelly, City editor of The Observer, see it. Goodman, who will fight Wycombe (Conservative majority: 2,000) on behalf of the Tories, says: "Politicians want to be politicians because they feel something similar to a vocational call. They do it because they do it."

If elected, Shersby is determined not to behave like some of the politicians who appear in her paper. "I really want to do some good. I am not interested in having power over people but I want power for people."

Battersea will be a journalistic battleground. …

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