The service provided by Whitehall press offices and the Government to regional lobby journalists has deteriorated under Labour, according to the conveyor of the regional morning group of correspondents.
Paul Linford, political editor of The Journal, Newcastle, has made the claim in a submission to the Phillis Inquiry looking at Government spin.
Linford said: “As someone who has worked in the parliamentary lobby under each of the last two administrations I have to say that the service we receive from departmental press officers, and from the Government as a whole, has markedly declined under the current administration.
“Prior to 1997 it was clear that maintaining good links with the regional lobby was a priority for some people within the Whitehall press machine.”
Linford added there were not only regular departmental briefings held with members of the regional lobby, there were also regular opportunities to meet with ministers and officials in a less formal setting, such as Cabinet Office regional lobby lunches which were held four or five times a year under the Conservatives.
“These lunches abruptly ceased after Labour came to power, but more worryingly, the number of regional lobby briefings have also dwindled almost to nothing. Worse than that, when departmental press briefings do take place, the specialist press for the relevant department are invited while more often than not we are excluded.
“This of course ignores the fact that for regional papers who do not have a battery of specialist correspondents, the lobby man is expected to cover all announcements irrespective of which department is making them,” he said.