I laughed in disbelief when told on my first day as an MP that "if you want to keep a secret, say it on the floor of the House of Commons". But other than for the most important front-bench speeches, it's true. Driven by the decreasing space allocated to Parliament in their papers, lobby journalists report only a fraction of Westminster discussions. Where, for example, can you read of recent debates on extreme solar events or addiction to prescription medicines? These and others were not reported because they were not the big story of the day – and all because a cartel of political editors convened over afternoon tea to decide that this was so.
Last month, Sri Lanka was the big story. This month, alas for the Tamils, it wasn't. So Siobhain McDonagh's debate on 12 June over the plight of 300,000 Tamil refugees was barely noticed.
The 238 pass-holding lobby journalists do not have an outlet for lesser stories, so they end up, pack-like, having to chase the same one or two stories each day.
Yet it is a stark reality of life in the internet age that parliamentary reporting no longer has to be constrained by column inches. The new Speaker should log on to see what is possible. See, for example, Ispystrangers.org. There you will read of discussions as wide-ranging as NHS provision in Cornwall and job losses on a missile range in South Uist.
But the great thing is that the internet is taking over the reporting of Parliament. Sites like ConHome, Dizzy Thinks and I Spy Strangers are now trawling through Hansard to find the stories which mainstream journalists don't seem interested in. They are far more deserving of lobby passes than many of the national newspaper hacks who have them.