POLITICS

Jim Sheridan MP Calls On House Of Commons Authorities To Look At Banning Sketchwriters From Holding Press Passes

20/03/2013 19:37 GMT | Updated 20/03/2013 19:38 GMT

House of Commons authorities should investigate whether to ban parliamentary sketchwriters from holding press passes in Parliament, a defiant Jim Sheridan MP said on Wednesday.

The Labour MP had been skewered by the country's sketchwriters on Wednesday morning for his comments the day before on the "parasitic elements" of the press who "have abused their position in here, in terms of hiding behind their pens and calling people names".

jim sheridan

Jim Sheridan MP has said House of Commons authorities should investigate whether to ban parliamentary sketchwriters from holding press passes

Speaking in the aftermath of controversial plans to regulate the press, the member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North told a Commons committee: "I dont understand why they are allowed to come into this place and behave in the way they do.

"Under these proposals it's not going to stop them behaving the way they behave, but hopefully it will bring some sort of decency to them."

A day later, the MP was still doggedly pursuing the issue, adamant he was not advocating banning the press from the House, telling the BBC Radio 4's PM programme he meant "those people who come in here and basically spend their time criticising people's appearance, what size they are that sort of thing."

He said: "This scaremongering stuff about, we'll come for the sketch writers first and then we'll come for everyone else, it is absolute rubbish.

"I have no difficulty with [Daily Mail sketchwriter] Quentin Letts calling me names, but I don't know why the House of Commons gives him the facilities to do that. He could do it from the public gallery.

"I think it's something the authorities have to look at, if a member of the public walked around slagging off MPs for their appearances they would be escorted out of the door, and I don't see what is the difference."

Sketchwriters who took aim at Sheridan in the morning's papers had clearly hit a raw nerve, with the Daily Telegraph's Michael Deacon dedicated his column to Sheridan, mentioning Sheridan's expenses claims for a "42-inch plasma TV and a leather bed."

Sheridan told the BBC the expenses reference was beyond the pale. "What is the business case for the sketch writers to come in and slag people off, they don't contribute anything to the debates in the place?

"They don't participate, they don't put positive or negative slants, they just do character assassinations. And the classic example is that if anyone says anything against the press, everything's regurgitated, all the expenses stuff, all regurgitated. It's a form of bullying that's unacceptable in this day and age."

The Mail's Letts said that he thought it was "extreme" for an MP should say such a thing. He told the BBC: "it is quite frightening if an MP is saying 'You can't come into Parliament and sit in the press gallery unless you are going to be respectful to MPs. It strikes me as an extreme thing to say.

"Our currency as sketch writers is not policy, no.

"We try and drill into the characters of the politicians, our coinage is ambition, timidity, the rabbit-y shyness you sometimes get in politicians.

"Our heroes are the gasbags, the peacocks, the clockwork numpties like dear old Jim. These people are representatives in Parliament, and we try and bring them to life."