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News, gossip and insight from PoliticsHome Editor Paul Waugh

Gobby gobsmacked

Thanks to the BBC's fixer Paul Lambert, the world managed to see some great TV footage of Murdoch's pieman as he was being held by the cops yesterday.

But it seems that the House authorities, already furious at the breach of security by Jonathan May-Bowles (aka @jonniemarbles), were not pleased with all of the actions of the man known universally as Gobby.

Some in the House were unhappy at the way Gobby and his TV camera pursued May-Bowles and the cops through the building, (at one stage intrepidly running down an up escalator, I hear). As a result, Gobby* has had his Westminster pass withdrawn.

The House has pretty strict rules on where you can and cannot film and it may be that they've got him bang to rights. The only issue is whether there is any leeway for the extenuating circumstances of the mayhem of yesterday. But it may be that it's precisely because of the mayhem that the rules are being upheld so forcefully.

I've blogged about this Westminster legend before (see here) and many MPs, not to say ministers, would be sad to see him excluded permanently. I wonder how long he will be sin-binned?

I hear that SkyNews have also had their right to film in the House temporarily withdrawn, for upto six weeks (but don't know when it becomes active).

Meanwhile, the Speaker was certainly steamed up about the DCMS security breach. So much so that he has today announced an external investigation into the affair, with a remit for ensuring it never happens again.

It could be that the anarchic actions of Johnny Marbles could lead to serious repercussions for public access to select committees.

Tory MP Robert Halfon raised in a point of order today his own worry that the breach would lead to restrictions on the long-held right of the public to attend such sessions.

The Speaker was slightly ominous in his reply, refusing to rule out tighter restrictions:

"That right to attend meetings is a very long established and precious freedom. I think it would be quite wrong for me to seek to constrain or circumscribe an independent investigation in what it can cover and what it can recommend. The point the Hon Gentleman makes is an important one...many people will share his point of view."

After a few years ago, the House had to spend a large amount of money erecting a glass screen that now prevents the public from actually viewing the chamber directly. (It still didn't stop the Fathers for Justice lobbing purple haze at TBlair)

It would be a great shame for the mood and feel of select committees if the voters were barred because of the actions of one foam hacker.

 

 

FOOTNOTE:* It's Gobby, not Dobby, by the way. Then again, some of this has a Harry Potter ring to it: "Bad Gobby, Bad Gobby..."

 

UPDATE: Blimey, this blog has more influence than I thought. A Twitter campaign of #saveGobby has now been launched, with the backing of @andyburnhammp, @edballsmp and even @SallyBercow.

#saveGobby is now trending third in the UK

 

LATE UPDATE: Well, the power of Twitter has proved itself. Gobby has had his pass restored, as has PA reporter Theo Usherwood. This came after Louise Mensch raised the matter on a point of order in the debate. 

As she put it: "I hope that the House will agree with me that it's appropriate that we support freedom of the press, particularly when the press are reporting on serious failures of security in this House."

The Speaker then decided to take action.

A spokeswoman for the Speaker said: "The circumstances in which the breaches of the regulations took place were unprecedented and unpredicted.

"We have had assurances from all the journalists concerned that they will respect the filming regulations in future and the Speaker feels that no useful purpose will be served by the withdrawal of these passes."

I'm pretty sure that kind of plain common sense would never have prevailed under Mr Bercow's predecessor, who famously loathed the press.

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