There is one attribute applying to journalists reporting as part of the Lobby which many out there in the real world fail to understand, and that is the Lobby mentality. Lobby correspondents talk to other Lobby correspondents. They often agree to define reality in similar ways. Sometimes they listen to that reality, rather than first checking it against the outside world. Which brings us to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg.
Ms K has occasionally exhibited maybe not bias, but certainly a lack of awareness, when covering Labour and its recent travails. The engineered on-air resignation of a junior shadow minister in February last year, seemingly less than impartial coverage of local elections, and the legitimising of the Sun’s totally untrue “QUEEN BACKS BREXIT” rubbish showcased this. And to point it out was, sorry folks, NOT sexist.
So it was that Ms K jotted down her thoughts on the General Election so far in a Tweet. “Both main party leaders so far have done invite only events + a bit of public access”. This effectively equated what Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had done with Theresa May’s grand progress among her subjects. The result of demonstrating this singular lack of awareness was incredulity and annoyance from Labour supporters.
This post will not be dwelling on the detail of that incredulity and annoyance - those who wish to peruse the aftermath of Ms Kuenssberg’s Tweet can do so HERE - but to equate the Corbyn and May campaigns thus far is just plain flat wrong. Consider the Prime Minister’s trips - where the transport itself has seen her sealed off from the public, whether using road, or sometimes air, travel. Let’s start with Scotland.
A meeting at a church hall several miles west of Aberdeen, which was definitely not booked as such, and was open only to vetted and invited Tories. No public access there. During her visit to Cornwall, journalists were locked in a room and kept well away from Ms May. Another invite-only event, because it was in a Labour-held constituency, was advertised as “taking the fight to Labour”, but no members of the public featured.
True, there was a belated if heavily policed walkabout during that Cornwall visit, but the contrast with Jezza could not be more stark: when the Labour leader visited the North West, he travelled by train, sitting in Standard Class and yes, interacting with anyone and everyone who wanted to stop by and chat. He was heckled outside M&S in Crewe - no chance of keeping the ordinary public away there.
The idea that Corbyn, whatever his faults and weaknesses, has had his campaign subjected to the same secure and closed-off environment as Theresa May’s does not stand the most basic of scrutiny. Yet anyone reading Laura Kuenssberg’s thoughts would be led to believe exactly that. And once again, that’s not good enough.
Situation normal for the BBC is to have both left and right heaping criticism on the Corporation. It should be instructive that almost all the response to Ms Kuenssberg’s observation has been from one side of the political spectrum. I’ll just leave that one there.