Keir Starmer Demands Investigation Into 'Deeply Disturbing' No.10 Press Ban

Labour leadership candidate asks cabinet secretary to launch formal inquiry.

Labour leadership frontrunner Keir Starmer has called on the cabinet secretary to investigate Downing Street’s decision to restrict a press briefing on the UK’s post-Brexit trade plans to selected media outlets.

On Monday, correspondents on No.10’s favoured list were told to stand one side of a carpet, while everyone else – including HuffPost UK – was told to stand to the other side and then ordered to leave.

The attempt to divide the press pack promoted a walkout by all the reporters including from the BBC, Sky News and The Guardian.

Writing to Sir Mark Sedwill, the most senior civil servant, Starmer said Downing Street had “undermined the civil service’s ability to comply with its core values of integrity, objectivity and impartiality”.

No.10 also faced pressure from Tory Sir Peter Bottomley, the Commons’ most senior MP, who urged the government to talk to editors to “see if there’s a way of getting over this problem and resolving it”.

During an urgent question on the issue in the Commons, Bottomley said: "There’s no more great a competition for an MP to get themselves into the media, it is for media people to get themselves reported and on air - they walked away from it, there’s a problem, it needs solving.”

Responding, Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith said Bottomley's advice will be "correctly considered".

The urgent question came after Starmer wrote to Sedwill, the cabinet secretary.

The Labour MP wrote: “The media’s access to the prime minister’s chief negotiator should not be determined by political favouritism.

Starmer added: “The actions of the prime minister’s director of communications, who is a political appointee, are deeply disturbing.”

The shadow Brexit secretary asked Sedwill to “investigate urgently this matter and provide assurance that such an incident will not happen again”.

A No.10 source insisted selected media outlets had not been “banned”. “They’re not banned – they are just not invited.”

But Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said it was a “very alarming incident”.

“As ministers are now regularly refusing to be accountable for their actions by boycotting certain programmes and journalists, this represents another very dangerous step.

EMPICS Entertainment

“Johnson’s government must stop this paranoia and engage with all the press, not just their favourites.”

Shadow culture secretary Tracy Brabin said yesterday Boris Johnson was “resorting to tactics imported from Donald Trump to hide from scrutiny”.

Dame Eleanor Laing, the deputy Commons speaker, said lobby journalists should be “treated with respect”.

Lobby correspondents – the political journalists based in Westminster – have also recently seen their regular briefings moved from parliament to 9 Downing Street, raising fears about the prospect of No.10 banning reporters.


What's Hot