Keir Starmer demands civil service probe into No10 ‘ban’ on journalists
Keir Starmer has called on the Government’s top civil servant to launch an urgent probe after journalists were excluded from a Number 10 briefing.
The Labour leadership hopeful said the controversial move had “undermined the civil service’s ability to comply with its core values of integrity, objectivity and impartiality”.
Around 20 political reporters staged a walkout from Downing Street on Monday after some were effectively banned from a “technical background briefing” on Brexit.
In extraordinary scenes, Boris Johnson’s communications chief, Lee Cain, was involved in a shouting match with the journalists in the lobby behind the famous black door of Number 10.
The row came after a small number of broadcasters and press were invited to a briefing by David Frost, Mr Johnson’s top Brexit adviser.
In his letter to Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, Sir Keir said the events were “deeply disturbing”.
He said: “David Frost is a civil service appointee. The Civil Service code states that staff must ‘carry out [their] responsibilities in a way that is fair, just and equitable and reflects the Civil Service commitment to equality and diversity’.
“It adds that civil servants must not ‘act in a way that unjustifiably favours or discriminates against particular individuals or interests.’
“The actions of the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications, who is a political appointee, are deeply disturbing.
“I am concerned that they have undermined the civil service’s ability to comply with its core values of integrity, objectivity and impartiality.
“Equally, banning sections of the media from attending important briefings about important matters of government is damaging to democracy.
“For instance, the Government’s post-Brexit trade plans are matters of national importance. The media’s access to the Prime Minister’s chief negotiator should not be determined by political favouritism.
“I would ask that you investigate urgently this matter and provide assurance that such an incident will not happen again.”
In response to the row, Lee Cain told HuffPost UK that no journalists had been banned, they had just not been invited to the briefing.
A Number 10 source told Buzzfeed News: “Full briefing happened for all. Smaller selected briefing for specialist senior journalists (incl guardian) arranged. Uninvited Journalists barged in and demanded to be part of it. It was made clear - only those invited could stay. They chose to leave."
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