The Conservatives have been accused of running a campaign of “control freakery” after the party refused to allow journalists to cover David Cameron and Boris Johnson’s appearance at a nursery yesterday. (Picture: Reuters)
Times sketch writer Ann Treneman has told how she spent the day “desperately seeking” the pair after their “people” would not tell her where they were going to be.
After hearing a “whisper” that they were going to be in Kingston and Surbiton she resorted to asking members of the public whether they had seen the Prime Minister or Mayor of London.
She was able to find them at the Advantage Day Nursery after hearing another “whisper of a rumour” – but was forced to wait outside, after the “Tory press team produced a portable barrier in the car park so we could stand behind it”.
She said only “a few chosen journalists” were permitted entry. These included, according to Treneman, reporters from The Sun, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Evening Standard and Press Association, as well as broadcasters.
No journalist from The Times was invited or permitted entry, she said. The newspaper’s coverage of the event, beyond Treneman’s sketch, consists of a photograph by Toby Melville for Reuters and a reference, in a front page story, to the “tightly controlled” event.
Describing what happened when the politicians arrived, Treneman said: “Dave and Boris appeared and, without speaking, went into the nursery. Dave’s people said I couldn’t tag along with the press pack because space was limited, although 23 people now followed them in. Why was I being banned from watching Boris and Dave finger-paint? The decoder ring didn’t know.
“The Tories moved the portable barrier so we had to move. Then Dave and Boris emerged. Boris waved. Dave slapped Boris on the back. Dave waved. They drove off. So that was it, the big event, two waves and a slap. Welcome to the world of campaign control freakery. Dull? Surely not.”
Treneman told Press Gazette: “There is control freakery on all sides. The point of my sketch was to make light of the control freakery (I cannot take myself too seriously, I hope) and that these tightly controlled events (in this case without even any voters) make the campaign rather dull.“
Guardian columnist Marina Hyde was also critical of the Tories after her newspaper’s journalists were “cordoned outside”. She incorrectly, according to Treneman, stated that a Times reporter was allowed in.
Hyde said that “the day was run not so much on a need-to-know basis as a we’ll-decide-who-needs-to-know basis”.
In her article, Hyde was also critical of the Prime Minister for attempting to avoid interaction with the public.
She described Cameron's "entourage forming a protective huddle round him on a busy platform at Bedford station on Wednesday morning, while the prime minister’s eyes darted nervously about, wondering where his late-running train was".