A Conservative victory at the next general election will usher in a new era of “straight-forward” media relations between Downing Street and the press, according to Lobby chairman Benedict Brogan.
Speaking at a Polis event at the London School of Economics last night, the Daily Mail political editor said he was hopeful that Tory leader David Cameron would be “the complete opposite to Tony Blair” when it came to dealing with journalists.
Brogan said New Labour under Tony Blair and subsequently Gordon Brown was often accused of “pandering to the media” – joining newspaper campaigns and bowing to media pressure to change policies.
“I think [Cameron’s] going to be much less willing to get into the pocket of big media groups,” Brogan said. “He’s not necessarily keen to jump at their every command, which is quite a refreshing approach.
“What they [the Conservatives] don’t seem to be prepared to do is to trim their policies to the extent that Tony Blair and New Labour did in the early years.”
Brogan said that although Tony Blair was seen by many as “the master of spin”, he believed the Gordon Brown spin machine was “even more formidable than the one attributed to Blair”.
“When the time comes to write a record of Gordon Brown’s time as chancellor, I think the record will show that Gordon Brown was phenomenally good at building strategic alliances with certain newspapers, mine included, and certain journalists and using that to his advantage,” he said.
Brogan, who chairs the daily afternoon press briefing between political journalists and the prime minister’s spokesman, said the Lobby still had some way to go to shake off its image as “a kind of exclusive club”.
“When I joined in 1994 the first that was most striking about it was it was white, male and old,” he said.
“The average now is much younger, there are far more women. It’s still overwhelmingly white – which is a wider issue for British journalism as a whole.”
Asked by a member of the audience whether the Commons authorities would consider admitting political bloggers to the Lobby, Brogan replied: “They’ve been very reluctant to start issuing passes to new media outlets.
“There’s an ongoing conversation whether the House of Commons authorities start issuing media passes to bloggers. That remains unresolved – it’s causing a huge headache.”