The Guardian has complained about the "selective secrecy" of General Election campaign events, after it claims it was barred from entering a nursery classroom where David Cameron and Boris Johnson were playing with paints and jigsaws on Wednesday.
The paper was so annoyed it had a dig at the Tories on its front page, in a snarky, triple-decker headline reading: "From The Mail? In you go. From The Sun? Very welcome. From the Telegraph? That's fine, have a seat at the front. From The Guardian? No way. Electioneering, Tory-style."
Guardian columnist Marina Hyde went to a nursery in Surbiton, Surrey, where Cameron and Johnson appeared together for a photo call and media event. But the writer for the left-wing newspaper said she was unable to witness their visit firsthand and was "cordoned outside", and suggested only right-leaning press were allowed to get close to the Tory leader and potential future leader.
Referring to Johnson and Cameron's shared history at Oxford and the Bullingdon Club, Hyde wrote: "It was impossible to watch Cameron and Boris doing a puzzle and not reflect how great it was to see the old gang back together. Except it was impossible to watch them doing the puzzle unless you wrote for Murdoch, Rothermere or the Barclay brothers."
Access to the two politicians "was granted to one reporter each from the Times, the Sun, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, and a single camera crew, while the Guardian was cordoned outside".
The Daily Mirror reported that "one female journalist had the door slammed in her face and other reporters were pinned in cordons in a car park," though it is not clear who its piece referred to, or if journalists from the Mirror attended.
But Hyde's version of events was called into question on Twitter. Sam Coates, the political editor of The Times - regarded as a publication which supports The Conservatives - said Hyde was wrong about his newspaper being given access, and that in fact it too was shut out.
& I know it spoils her narrative but Marina Hyde wrong on p1 of Guardian. Times blocked from Boris event too. pic.twitter.com/WV9mONkb5f— Sam Coates Times (@SamCoatesTimes) April 23, 2015
Two other Times journalists, Ann Treneman and Laura Pitel, reported the same thing:
Boris and Dave on top secret visit to day nursery in marginal. I am banned from watching them do a jigsaw puzzle. Obviously .— ann treneman (@anntreneman) April 22, 2015
@SamCoatesTimes Times and Guardian left outside :(— Laura Pitel (@laurapitel) April 22, 2015
Isn't Boris supposed to be one of the Tories' biggest assets? What is the point of doing an event where he is hidden away?— Laura Pitel (@laurapitel) April 22, 2015
Joe Murphy from The Evening Standard added that his paper was welcomed into the event:
The Guardian's Hyde then found herself embroiled in what she called a "lively" Twitter debate, after Tom Newton Dunn, the political editor of The Sun, pointed out "for balance" that the right-leaning Sun had been excluded from Labour events with Ed Miliband:
But Newton Dunn then found himself attacked by critics who rounded on The Sun for having an overly pro-Tory agenda set from its editors, including Labour MP Tom Watson:
.@tnewtondunn may be due to the fact Murdoch sent you a direct memo that your jobs were on the line and you should subvert democracy?— Jade Azim (@JadeFrancesAzim) April 22, 2015
Hyde later replied to clarify that she didn't think any paper should be excluded form political events, especially the local press:
@tnewtondunn blimey, got a bit lovely on here after my bedtime. For the record I don't believe any party should exclude papers (cont)— Marina Hyde (@MarinaHyde) April 23, 2015
@tnewtondunn including (and especially his election because I hear they're getting a really raw deal) local ones— Marina Hyde (@MarinaHyde) April 23, 2015
@tnewtondunn LIVELY on here I meant. Not lovely— Marina Hyde (@MarinaHyde) April 23, 2015
At the nursery event, Cameron himself hit out at the "annoying" media, telling a child who asked why photos were being taken: "I know, it is quite annoying, it is for the newspapers. They'll go away in a minute if we finish the puzzle."
Hyde also slammed Cameron for his seeming reluctance to spend time with ordinary voters, after spotting him on a train platform surrounded by a "protective huddle" of advisors while his "eyes darted nervously about, wondering where his late-running train was."
PM entourage forming human shield around him on train platform. Voter contact likely to be averted. pic.twitter.com/glq6I5ik1v— Marina Hyde (@MarinaHyde) April 22, 2015
A Conservative spokesperson responded by pointing to a series of tweets from other journalists, used in this story, about who did and didn't get access to the PM's photo-call.
The Labour party's handling of the press was also under fire after a BBC cameraman went flying as he was pulled backwards by a Labour party press officer when Ed Miliband arrived in Ipswich for a campaign visit. The officer in question didn't appear to help the cameraman get up after his fall.