Friday, November 21, 2008

The "Headache" of Lobby Passes for Bloggers

In yesterday's Daley Dozen, I highlighted Paul Linford's blogpost on whether bloggers should get parliamentary lobby passes. He thinks they should. I'm not so sure. Most bloggers are not journalists, or even wannabe journalists. Most write opinion and comment blogs, rather than report on what goes on in politics. I certainly never set out to do anything other than write opinion, although I accept that things have turned out a little differently. So I was particularly interested in these comments by Ben Brogan, the chairman of the Parliamentary lobby, as reported by the Press Gazette...
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.

I would love to know who makes up this torrent of bloggers who are demanding lobby passes. I think Guido thought about it at one stage, but today he makes clear he doesn't want one as he feels it would compromise him. I certainly don't need one to do what I do, and frankly I can't see who else would, with the possible exception of Dizzy, who specialises in trawling through Hansard and parliamentary papers - but he can do all that online anyway.

Perhaps Ben will explain on his blog why this headache exists, because I'm not sure I can see the cause of it. I suspect it is a problem created in the minds of some lobby journalists (and I don't mean Ben) who continue to view bloggers as a threat to their cosy little cartel. So they have created an Aunt Sally with the express intention of knocking her down to size. Or am I being cynical?

UPDATE: Mike Smithson of PoliticalBetting explains why he wants a lobby pass HERE.

UPDATE: A commenter has left this comment: "I was at the LSE event at which Ben Brogan spoke on Tuesday... what the Press Gazzette report doesn't mention (and I guess you are unaware of) is that Ben specifically mentioed you as being 'particualrly keen'(or words to that effect) to get a lobby pass."

I am rather surprised that Ben should say this as I have never given any indication that I wanted a lobby pass, and I still don't! I have emailed to ask him how he got the impression I did.

UPDATE: Ben says he doesn't recall saying that I did in such specific terms. Anyway, I cleared up any possible misunderstanding and made clear that I have never wanted a lobby pass, do not want one now, and never will! End of.


Archbishop Cranmer said...

Most write opinion and comment... rather than report on what goes on in politics.


Isn't that what 'mainstream' journalism has always been?

Paul Linford said...

Just to clarify Iain, I don't think I was arguing that you needed a lobby pass to write your blog, merely that it would be artificial to exclude you (or any other blogger of similar stature) in view of the size and influence of your blog relative to some mainstream media outlets.

It's interesting to see how the Big Four have divided on this: You and Guido don't want passes, but Mike Smithson and Jonathan Isaby clearly do.

Anonymous said...

Some bloke called David David was on Desert Island Discs - apparently used to be a member of Conservative shadow cabinet but something about having to stand in a by-election.

Anyone remember what it was all about?

Anonymous said...

My reading of this is it is less about bloggers than about paid online news journalists. This covers both those working for traditional organisations like the BBC and the daily newspapers (on their online side) and the, still fairly limited in numbers, online only outfits like politicshome and, and I suppose conhome too.

Old BE said...

"Most write opinion and comment blogs, rather than report on what goes on in politics."

Unlike the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph, Times, Mirror, Sun, et al?

The reason the Lobby and MPs don't want bloggers in is because they would tell the truth. The Lobby system is corrupt to the core. Approved "reporters" get to go on taxpayer funded freebies in return for not reporting the negative stuff too hard. This is how Labour have controlled the media for too long. This country is "scrutinised" by people who have a vested interest in the continuation of the current regime.

Bloggers have no such agenda and are therefore far too dangerous.

John Pickworth said...

I can't see why a small allocation of passes can't be made available to those that want them. I'm sure if the Hebridean Sheep Farmer's Weekly wanted one they'd be accommodated?

Why not set a small qualification for the online media applications? Say, they must have been operating continuously for at least two years? That'd prevent the fly-by-night nutcases with a 'blogger' account from troubling our estimed Fourth Estate.

Anonymous said...


Bloggers are not the new media. The new media is largely the old media doing things online. Bloggers are individuals.

The problem is this - bloggers of your mould and Guido are only able to do what you do as you are not entirely within the system and beholden to it.

Getting the likes of you and Guido into the press lobby would only be of use if you were aiming to report how it all works, how much it costs, how useful or useless it is. I'm sure it would be an illuminating experience but would the lobby be keen on it?

Laurence Boyce said...

There's no way that lobby passes should be issued to one-man-band bloggers who lack any organisational structure or accountability. Total Politics might qualify but not Joe the blogger. And it's just as well Guido Fawkes doesn't want a pass. They were hardly going to let him in after what he did last time.

Anonymous said...


I was at the LSE event at which Ben Brogan spoke on Tuesday... what the Press Gazzette report doesn't mention (and I guess you are unaware of) is that Ben specifically mentioed you as being 'particualrly keen'(or words to that effect) to get a lobby pass.

It was a very interesting debate.

Iain Dale said...

Anonymous, no I was totally unaware of that. I have now emailed Ben asking his why he said that as I have never given an indication that I was after a lobby pass.

Anonymous said...


As I say over at my gaffe I find this whole issue problamatic and like Laurence I am against it even as a political blogger. I think it would create 'two-tier' blogging and since Paul in his article makes a case for them to be given to the 'Big Five' that raises other what happens if one of the 'Big Five' drops they have their passes revoked??

Also, there is the issue that the selection wouldnt exactly be politically balanced as things stand (why, for example, should Conservative but not Labour home have one or even Lib Dem Voice??).

You and Guido and others seem perfectly capable of producing well read and liked blogs without them so as you rather say I dont see why they would be needed. Like has been said I can just about see the case for a publication like Total Politics or at a push Political Betting but certainly I don't feel they should be issued in the way Paul wants them...

Anonymous said...

Assuming the lobby journo's have some form of qualification/training then they would be fully aware of the various laws which govern the reporting of Parliament.

I can't imagaine most bloggers would care to spend much time reading McNae's to ensure they don't fall found of Britain's laws of contempt, libel and anything else which comes their way.

Opening up the lobby to all and sundry is inviting trouble - in as much as various barristers will be rubbing their hands with glee and the chance of ripping a few bloggers apart in a courtroom.
"I'm sorry - so you don't know what qualified privilege actually means... exactly how much would you like to pay my client?"

Not slating the bloggers, merely postulating what may befall them.

Carl Eve

Tony Abbot's new view from the sky said...

When it comes to the lobby I think political bloggers ought to bear in mind the words of Marx (Groucho that is)

"I wouldn't join a club that would have me as a member"

Unsworth said...

@ Laurence Boyce

Remind us who the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph, Times, Mirror, Sun, etc ad infinitum are accountable to.

As to organisational structure, why is this necessary?

Most bloggers are identifiable and personally accountable within the law of the land.

Anonymous said...

I would have thought you might have mentioned you DO have a pass for the parliamentary estate, well thats according to the latest Register of Interests of Members' Secretaries and Research Assistants

Something that allows you much of the freedom of access of a lobby pass.

Iain Dale said...

I have made clear here in the past that I have a pass. It is hardly a secret. But it does not accord access to the lobby. Nor would I wish it to.

Ben Gray said...

"Most write opinion and comment blogs, rather than report on what goes on in politics."

Surely that is a circular argument. If bloggers were given more opportunities to do reporting, then there would be more reporting on blogs.

I've always wanted to have a lobby pass. My analysis of political affairs is effectively based off a combination of instinct, study, third-hand regurgitations, and the occasional encounter with an MP. It would be nice to be able to compete on a level footing.

Obviously there are pitfalls, but these are not insurmountable.