Saturday 19 June 2010

Did a reporter's hangover lead to a hung Parliament?

Fascinating piece on by Sky News political reporter Niall Paterson, who broke the Gillian Duffy 'bigot' row story which sunk Gordon Brown's election campaign.
Paterson writes: "It's not commonly known, but I landed the Gillian Duffy story because of a hangover. Actually, more accurately, I got to report the gaffe first because of the anticipation of a hangover.
"The night before (in the bar with the team), aware of a swelling pain in my temples (thanks to the team in the bar), I begged my colleague Michelle Clifford to do the early two-ways. That'd mean I'd get on the Labour Vengabus after breakfast, and have an extra hour in my bed. Bliss. Survival on an election tour depends on these snatched moments."
He adds: "Caught on tape as Sky filmed the Brown's departure, Sky News, ITN and the BBC quickly became aware of the "bigot" remarks.
"The decision to run the material was quickly taken – ITN would have run it but were minutes from their lunchtime bulletin, the BBC say they were discussing the matter in committee but were most likely waiting for Sky to act – and I again stepped in front of the camera.
"Ten minutes later, I switched on my mobile phone and waited for the text messages and answerphone messages, the angry rebuttal from the PM's spinners one would expect in these situations – when reporting controversial stories, arguments with politicians' advisers are common.
"But, as on other days, none arrived. Was Duffygate (not my sobriquet of choice, I'd add) the story of the election? Probably not, but it acted as a decent example of Labour's failings in the election.
"The distance cultivated between the PM's party and those on the bus was counter-productive. It fostered a sense of team spirit amongst the hacks. And with no spinner actively working the press (just a single, emailed overnight briefing note and occasional huddles and briefings instead), the media were simply not managed."

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