After a quarter of a century as a member, I’m this year’s chairman of the Parliamentary Lobby. In spite of its sinister reputation, the Lobby is not an old boys’ network in which politicians and hacks conspire to “keep it under their hats”. We rarely hear secrets and, if we do, the public is informed pretty soon afterwards. In practice, it is the main interface between political journalists, the Government and parliamentary institutions. Our privileges are granted by the Speaker and the Serjeant at Arms, not 10 Downing Street – an important safeguard during the bumpy Blair decade. Blair and Alastair Campbell unilaterally trashed the way Government had interacted with political journalists. Brown is bound to have ideas of his own.
We also have to deal with the rise of the blogger. Iain Dale, Guido Fawkes et al want Lobby passes. But do they want to operate as journalists or gossip columnists? It’s up to the Serjeant at Arms whether to let them in.
Can I make it clear that I do not want a lobby pass. It is true that 18 Doughty Street has applied for one, but I have made clear that it is not for me. I am not a lobby journalist and I do not wish to become one.