Journalists Darren McCaffrey (Sky) and Eleanor Garnier (BBC) yesterday shared detailed accounts of their experience eavesdropping on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn forming his new shadow cabinet.
They reported on the movements, conversations and rumours they heard inside the Labour whip’s office, in the House of Commons, late on Sunday night where Corbyn met with his chief whip Rosie Winterton and campaign manager Simon Fletcher.
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McCaffrey described Corbyn’s strategy: ‘‘Jeremy would talk to them. Rosie would talk to them. Simon would get the message out, who was in and who was out.
‘‘How do I know this? Well, I could hear it, not all of it, not most of it, but some of it.
‘‘There was no glass pressed against a door, simply four journalists in a grand Commons character, loitering, tweeting, trying to see who was coming and going.
‘‘Behind a not-very-thick door, we could hear conversations which often spiked in volume and were clearly audible.’’
McCaffrey appeared to be first with the story, tweeting a link to his report at 12.05pm yesterday.
Garnier, whose report was published at 4.47pm, wrote: ‘‘Outside in the members' lobby Thatcher was pointing, Churchill had his hands on his hips and I sat on the cold floor, colleagues from Sky and the New Statesman nearby, all of us at the ready.
‘‘Batteries fading, our phones plugged into the few sockets we could find, we swapped intel and took it in turns to catch glimpses of not very quiet conversations.’’
Both journalists recorded the moment the Corbyn team decided to include more women in the shadow cabinet.
McCaffrey wrote that he heard a male voice which ‘‘…sounded like Simon Fletcher.
"We are taking a fair amount of **** out there about women.’
"We need to do a Mandelson. Let’s make Angela shadow first minister of state. Like Mandelson was. She can cover PMQs. Tom (Watson) knows about this. Do the Angela bit now.''
McCaffrey wondered: ‘‘Was this the plan all along, or a last-minute reaction to outrage on Twitter and private message? We may never know.’’
Close to midnight the negotiations finished and Garnier realised that the politicians had given the journalists the slip.
‘‘They were, we thought, still in the office, but realising it was too quiet we started heading for the exit, down narrow staircases, along winding corridors. Then, voices around the corner – it was Rosie.
"We're going home," she said. Off home from Westminster in her car but Jeremy was on foot, flanked by a posse of advisers.
‘‘With just my phone for recording we tried to ask question after question. Nothing, no response, just a march to a waiting car – and the end of a very long night.’’
McCaffrey followed Corbyn, hoping to interview the Labour leader but Corbyn refused to answer his questions and complained to a passing police car that McCaffrey and his team were ‘‘bothering me.’’