The Daily Mirror has been banned from Boris Johnson’s battle bus, with its reporter refused access as the vehicle set off on the campaign trail for the first time this week.
The left-leaning title is the only major newspaper to be excluded from the tour by the Conservative Party.
It has been invited to join every Tory campaign coach since the 1970s, when they first appeared. The Mirror was also on board the Vote Leave bus that carried the controversial “£350m a week for the NHS” slogan.
The Mirror reported that the Tories had blamed its “critical coverage of the Prime Minister” in recent weeks, including on the NHS and Johnson’s response to flooding in the north of England.
Daily Mirror editor Alison Phillips said: “Mirror readers have every right to know what the Conservatives have in store for them should Boris Johnson win the election.
“Our journalists have every right to scrutinise the Conservatives on our readers’ behalf. Blocking us from doing our job is deeply worrying for freedom of journalism and the protection of the truth.”
Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of press freedom campaign group Index On Censorship, compared the move to Donald Trump’s attempt to eject critical journalists from White House press conferences.
She told the Mirror: “Conservatives have repeatedly said freedom of expression is a key British value. They should show that by defending it and allowing Mirror journalists onto their their bus.”
Society of Editors executive director Ian Murray described the Mirror’s exclusion as a “disturbing development” after Phillips wrote to him expressing her concern over the precedent set by the move.
“If we don’t take a stand now, we do not know where this could lead,” she wrote.
In a statement, Murray said: “The Society does not support any political cause but does believe in and campaign for press freedom and the public’s right to know.
“All mainstream media should be given equal access to the political parties fighting this election. To restrict some media voices is not acceptable nor compatible with the principle of media freedom.”
The Mirror said senior Tory aides has invited it to join the battle bus but the offer was rescinded at the last minute.
Press Gazette has asked the Conservative Party for comment but has yet to receive a reply.
Johnson’s battle bus, liveried in red, white and blue and plastered with the Tory campaign slogan “Get Brexit Done”, departed Manchester city centre just before 8am yesterday, taking journalists to key battlegrounds in the North East alongside the PM (pictured from inside the bus).
The Daily Mirror has a daily average circulation of more than 463,000 copies, according to the latest ABC figures.
It has the second highest total monthly brand reach of any UK newsbrand, behind The Sun, according to readership figures by Pamco.
Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire