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Read this: How Boris Johnson lost the press

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How Boris Johnson lost the press…

BBC sounds music Radio podcasts hello, this is the media show from BBC Radio 4 please a perilous moments for Johnson witnessing a stream of resignations from his government and it is of course a political story, but it's a story about the media to we're witnessing how the media politics and power into and how they influence one another across the half hour.

We'll unpack this and I want to start by looking at the practicalities Kate McCann is with us.

She's from Kate thanks for sharing a couple of moments to talk to us in the middle of a tumultuous afternoon Help Me Understand the practicalities of being a political journalist at a moment like this.


It requires that shoes a lot of snacks in your bag and the ability to stay up late.

Get up early in the morning and pretty much never turn your phone off is that one of the most important things to have in your bag because on days like.

And pretty much the last couple of weeks things happen really quickly and it's quite difficult often to get a handle on how the mood changes it happens to this price around yesterday before we saw those very significant reservations from the cabinet in the House of Commons and Mum backbench.

MPs saying you know we've had enough.

I think the problem this time.

Is it there isn't necessarily one central team organising things it's quite desperate exactly what's happening and when are you talking to me from Westminster as you through this afternoon? How do you decide what to do? What are your priorities between talking to sources and perhaps publishing stories or going on TV or radio? How do you balance that where you think the most significant events of the day will come so today for example prime Minister's Questions and then Sajid Javid statement in The Commons and then this afternoon and around half an hour's time in meeting now in private.

Will be really significant because that could be where a real change happens, which potentially might make it easier for the party to get rid of the prime minister.

So you start by mapping out those and then you try and work out who are the people to be in touch with today you touch base with them early in the morning often have to say before I've got out of bed instead of you WhatsApp to see where people are going to be today and then you keep going people throughout the day and you hope that they answer and often very quickly this morning for example.

We know that Michael Gove spoke to the Prime Minister in suggested.

It might be time to leave we know that all afternoon.

Minister's cabinet meeting about whether they should go on Mass to make that point whether or not they need to wait a little bit until after the 1922 to see what happens.

You just need to make sure that you've got the right point of contact to be in the right place at the end of the day lyrics to speak to those on the backbenchers and get a bit of a broader view of the party and when it's all said and I don't want to stop you doing that for too long.

Thanks very much indeed for speaking to us.

I'll let you get back.

Kate McCann from little to bringing Eleanor Langford a lobby journalist with politics home Ellen you have a different audience different journalism products that you need to report for tell me how you are organising yourself this afternoon with sauces and being in the right place right time you know I've just come from what colours House of Parliament and people come over and talk to me and just give me passing information and I won't get back at home now on WhatsApp on my phone being there and being outside the room you get an import colours house are MPs talkative or do you have to persuade them to talk?

There is no matter what they say everything is everyone's talking to everyone on a normal day.

You might have to call them outside you might have to check them on the shoulder walk over to you, but it's the one you don't know you might have a little bit to get them to come to you.

Thanks to you as well for the joining us.

That's Eleanor from politics homes.

There's the practicalities of how the media operates on a day like this in Westminster let's also understand how politics and those within it I using the different forms of Media to play out their sides of the story on a day like this.

Michael Craig is a political journalist and author also joined by James Martin's and columnist and professional financial journalism at City University and by Joey Jones who was supposed to Theresa May when she was home secretary before that he was a deputy political editor at Sky News and Jay no wonder how you've you say the few hours between 79 10 in the morning.

We had the broadcast rounds we had resignations on Twitter it felt like those in the political sphere understood how to use the media to their ends carers as well today is an from last night as well when both scenic and David used Twitter to release their resignations statements that they also realised the power of media and obviously the broadcast and the print Media really interesting particular story like there something that we were talking earlier to say you know these are the kinds of days when is really hard not to want to be The Newsroom not to want to sort of the following every twist in town cos it's it is the big one of these political stories without a long time particular about the prime minister.

Obviously we could you know this is an astonishing day, so I think you can see how how the whole thing inside of working together for sure.

Ellen Langford from politics home when you are being given information by stories, you are presumed to be aware that they have no motivation to give that to you then looking to get their information for the main.

How do you assess the information? They're giving you given their respective motivations to everyone that he gets let you know when you are coming up to you and they're saying make sure you're talking to people who don't agree with that makes you talk to people on the shadow benches.

I'm making sure you're keeping your sorted out of us.

So you're not just because it's very easy to enter into a bubble with information and not fully realising the motivation behind me and Michael crick if I could bring you in at this stage.

How do you compare how political operatives use the media today with how they might have used it say when my Margaret Thatcher

Pressure several decades bag well, it's so much more complicated these days.

I'm on way back in 1990 when Margaret Thatcher fell the so-called lobby journalists, but would all be done literally within the members lobby of the House of Commons where they were they would journalists and politicians would meet it wouldn't have mobile phones in those days people texting each other at there was no social media.

You weren't looking out for what was on Facebook or on Twitter it was a much simpler world and all journalists were working to that will print jealous for pretty much talking to 11 deadline all in the evening or maybe the latest as well the broadcast journalist might have one out look like I used to have with Newsnight on Channel 4 news, and it was even if we work for a daily paperwork to say Channel 4 News eating all the time we still trying to get out our snippets of information ahead of our rivals and just

The record that we got the quote first so it's so much more complicated, but it's also so much more exciting just and your feel you're right at the heart of events at the heart of frankly today and yesterday.

You know I think it is historical period in politics, but really Compares with the full of Dacia in 1990s think we've had a day and let me know that my colleagues will correct me and think of one that I haven't sorted but it's only a highly significant day whether it's the most significant will be something that I'm sure many journalist will pour over but Joey Jones if we do Michael crick description of how much more complex the media landscape has become presumably as you once were if you're inside politics if you're dealing with the media.

It's become much more complicated the people in those rolls to.

Brown Smith and then James Burnell and it had David Miliband go on then.

I think you're Gordon Brown would have been done that time.

I was in a set of vintage for 24-hours because I had an instant out in the way that now has been completely democratise through Twitter so all you had to do was ring me and there was a perception that I was an obvious Sky News always wanted to be first with the news ahead of the news and I was able to credibly assert that over those you know three days that were very memorable, but I think it's great but the unstructured events like the one today and social media.

Just a perfect marriage and yes, it does it does take me back from the political side.

I think it just leaves people like Johnson advisers completely hapless.

There's nothing I can do they just don't know where the next resignations going to be coming from they don't know whether anybody is telling the truth when that when they're talking to them on the phone.

WhatsApp WhatsApp messages did must be the only way they would get through it right at the moment is a good dose of Gallows you well, there may be more than not be Gallows humour by the door of number 10 at the moment.

We we don't know and I wonder Elena how much communication on a day like this the prime minister's colleagues would have directly with journalists.

This I think the communication channel don't usually are I've never seen so many people having conversation in the corridors my WhatsApp has it been today if not busier and the channels are just it is not and when you say busy for everyone listening and for me just give me an idea.

How busy we talking terms of messages hundreds of messages just how many are coming in 500mg use that one or two stories today? I've spoken to me, but I've spoken to all of them and alongside that is in Parliament special advisers that I've also in the corridor.

It's been a very chatty day sounds like it has now let's understand.

What's happened in the last.

Turn the media perspective James Martin if I can bring you in this story began.

It was broken by the Sun newspaper carrying new allegations of inappropriate behaviour by then deputy chief whip Chris pincher to what degree do you think the media is driven this story to what degree do you think it's simply tap into a broader discomfort with Boris Johnson leadership.

I think it's that's really good question because I think the whole thing I would argue and I looked down and told you that the media that hold the powerful to account to follow them.

I mean niece distort the string of stories with hard.

You know that the prime minister same one thing and then it actually coming out with something else happened sending out Cabinet ministers who say something else happened constant stream of stories over the cost.

I mean 2-weeks.

It feels like it's been several years.

Incredible say and I think the fact that most papers know about the Daily Mail you know it since being elected with sorry huge less than 3 years ago, but the right wing papers as we would hold on the right of centre.

You know the Telegraph where Boris obviously was very highly paid columnist for a long time the mail so so positive about and the Somme Ashley until I think there's been such a drip of stories again follow the knees, but it's been quite difficult for them to keep slaves Ashley supporting somebody who we've had several examples of the public feeling maybe this also you know that the whoever it.

Was you know he whatever you think of Boris he still have been elected.

You know that they had started to lose faith and trust they were bullying him at the Jubilee celebrations.

It becomes the story by the way, it's the BBC and the sandwich.

I think I only well as well as the original sun story she break a further story 30-days later.

I'm sure the the newspapers you mentioned push back at the idea slave Ashley covering the Prime Minister in one way or another but it's probably run down.

How they covered the events of the last 24-hours the Mail on Sunday at 5 go back to Sunday the Mail on Sunday around the critical page today critical front page today the Daily Telegraph column by Lord Frost EU Negotiator brexit on behalf of Boris Johnson Lord Frost is the Prime Minister to go the Daily Express stayed on side it said the resignation of Rishi Sunak with potential for tax cuts the front page of the talks about Mr Johnson has the greased piglet and a male editorial on Monday said well Mr Johnson the best man to leave Britain swimming getting different messages from the male across the last few days, but more broadly Michael

Does appear to be in an Evolution in the the position of the right of centre press? How do you explain that I'm in the right of centre Crest took the view that we've got to get Boris Johnson elected or re-elected 3 years ago that the general election and I think gradually that they realise that she doesn't stand for he's not doing the brand any good he does not stand for many of the things that they believe in particularly when it comes to issues such as Family Values that is economic policies are not necessarily Surbiton and they become disillusioned and at the incompetence and dishonesty and untrustworthiness of his government isn't what are the values that conservative newspaper espouse and that's why they gradually dropped him in the case of the males When It's Complicated because traditionally the male and the Mail on Sunday I've not always take the same line.

3-years ago and of course the album is the Lord Rothermere and his family that only the group don't necessarily agree with the line taken by the and in the last seen the sort of moving about all over the place in terms of their attitude towards the prime minister.

You got the bringing back of it now load data pulled out of course traditional Family Values never never been a great fan of Boris Johnson the position of the male on in this is been extremely complicated and somebody who works until a few weeks ago in the periphery occasionally of the building what's been going on there, but I think that the dispersion of the press of Boris Johnson by the right-wing press has been crucial in all of this although it cost a lot of people read newspapers and then did say.

Days ago, but less explored how these evolution evolution of these positions occurs during if I could bring you in again when you study different publications weather is the daily telegraph for the male or the sun? How do we assess the relationship between the readers the editor and the owner in establishing first of all an original position but also deciding when that position needs to shift as we've evidently seen in some cases in the last fortnight that the power of the press.

We've been talking about the Decades however the front page paper and the way that of paper write about a big place for this is massively important.

It dictates till Tuesday dictates the broadcast gender the next day and impact the social media agenda.

You know you only have two Google early only have to look at the email and Boris on Twitter and it.

Nearly always trending I would slightly too.

I think again Michael's right.

You know when Boris was elected and those papers back brexit and it was really significant that the papers absolutely were team boring and newspapers not aware of Boris Johnson there's some of those Family Values that Michael talks about no one at the Daily Mail no one of those papers in any doubt about Boris Johnson the human being would I think is different is what we've seen in terms of managing the country.

You know how actually he has told lies to the to the and that's where you get a problem because this is I think the male is well.

It's really interesting because when I paper diverges so much from its readership, then you get something.

Having last 3 days which is the front page of the Mail on Sunday completely different from me.

You know actually beach Boris is the best man to leave and then today was a bit trying to head Abbots should say that to Johnson have always denied line though.

They do except that on several matters.

They have said things which weren't true and then her corrected that we're going to talk about the relationship between the number 10 press operation and the Press in a moment with James Ball who's going to join us, but Joe Jones I'd like to bring you in because I've been talking about the evolution of the position of certain papers on not just concentrate on politics more generally but do you think they can actually be moments high-impact moment say I'm thinking back to Michael Gove's turning on Boris Johnson back in 2016 instantly shift, where where publications and people sit on a person or an issue?

Yes, and I tend to feel like that is more what has happened here.

I don't really by the negative qualities associated with the right way up with the prime minister actually make him you know unfit for support.

I'm not sure I mean I give the sun great credit reporting a little under a week ago, but I'm not sure they would have necessarily anticipating.

It would lead to his downfall is likely down falling in less than a week the thing that has done that is that was already in the it was already on his final warning if you like and it just handle the cataclysmically over the weekend and the trigger was that he started sending out with other complacency Aldi's ministerial colleagues and giving them lines that they later found out we're not true.

So he was and his operation was bloody treated with contempt.

The weather and I think that yes the newspapers always like to say that they make but I think that here they could see that he had lost the continent is parliamentary colleagues and that left and know what's interesting is that you're describing how that impacted his political relationships, but it's also impacted number 10s relationship with the press because it was Number 10 was brief several days that the prime minister didn't know about specific allegations concerning the former deputy chief whip and they've now ignored that he did they say he forgotten about that and James Ball we've asked you to come out of the bureau of investigative journalism because you've been writing specifically about this issue and saying that the way number 10 is able to breathe the press needs to change because of what we've seen in the last few days.

Yes, I think specifically for this particular press team.

I think if anybody's sort of brought down Boris Johnson other than himself.

It's probably his successes press operation.

It's quite unusual to have flatout on truth said in politics people will Doctor question l Sullivans very specifically bell twist something and when number 10 comes up those two people who save and don't get me this sort of lager journalists know who they are but by convention.

They can't say it.

No, they don't get to the fool says and Incredibly unfairly Cabinet ministers who go out do the morning round might be cold something say it in good faith full broadcast TV but their names so they've been sent out to say there was no wrongdoing and no parties.

There was none of that and oppress operation was changed the new director of comms came in and then just days after.

Confidence votes you saw the new Operation people out on the morning and I think that's why the frustration come so much.

It's actually I bought pinched.

It's over what how How the reaction was the same but here's the question and Michael and Joey I'd like to put this to you.

Maybe Michael first does the system need to check all the problems that James has describing where intrusive being brief to the press perhaps that is a problem specific to the current operation in number 10.

I mean I'm not involved in reporting the news on a day-to-day basis these days, but I don't see that the system needs to change.

I just think that the culture needs to change and we need a clear out the prime minister and his political age probably some of the civil servants in number 10 as well, and you need to get back to a system where it is, understood.

Go round telling lies to Germany say because it's not really wrong because it's going to get you into trouble and you probably need a coat show where people are much more than willing to turn around and say well prime minister.

Is that is that actually true and what's happened now is that people have been going out and basically telling lies on behalf of the prime minister have already done so improve episodes over the last few months and you would have thought that by now that would be an element of results and it will be interesting to see you in the diary and when was a written how much revolt there was two been waiting to go out on the Today programme Newsnight or whatever and come out with this stuff.

I have to also say that in a way the media is a little bit guilty here to in that and myself.

That's all of us heard rumours about Chris pincher many years ago and we didn't follow them up reps assiduously as we should have done because it was Tom placated and we had to you know it was easier to

Play today stories, but let's not blame the entirely on the government in the media.

Do have a holding to account role and that role continues with some of the appointment of big made of actually looking to the past of some of these people and following-up rumours and allegations that we've heard that we need to do and doing that you and wanting to come in and then I'll come to you of course.

What look what what it feels like we're going to see with Boris Johnson broke down by the events of the past few years suggesting that this is an example of proper accountability comes to lie.

It's grievously misshandel by the man of top and he has to pay the consequences and also where I've had a particularly is very often around partygate and Sue grey report one has felt that proper accountability would actually leads to senior people.

Really genuinely taking responsibility in a way that didn't happen over quite a long period perhaps the song looking back.

I could help the mirror to the prime minister a little bit more.

I think Joey made some points.

I would have made it.

I would say in response to Michael in a way that the but I think the particularly has been to ready to turn the other cheek not really do it enough, but when push comes to shove journalist are finding their story if they are finding out.

I mean I'll pinch story you know that could have been written about 7 months ago and nothing would have come a bit the actual story is that the Prime Minister said he knew nothing of the journalist found out the two years ago.

He was the one who said pinch my name pinch by nature.

That's the important thing.

That's the final straw isn't it? And I think what the what scene.

To me is over the past months also the press is probably been as a whole and depressed but many genders are probably been to supine was actually they are now doing that and you would hope they would do that of prime ministers and politicians allstripes rather than just the ones that they don't particularly like and actually would now we have a prime minister that they are holding two or trying to hold to account and I should say that line that you were rude to IKEA store master Prime Minister about the prime Minister's Questions he said yes or no.

Did you say it and the prime minister declined to give a yes or no James you began the section of the programme saying that the system needed to change a different ways during Michael and Jane and murder case that perhaps the media is functioning reasonably well in Westminster do you think that's assistant change? I think I'm very very fine jealousy done in the last 2-weeks of problems too and I think if you're a journalist.

You're responsible if you spread on trees.

Public now the first name sauce lies to you.

That's on the source the second time you like the source lie to you especially without their name attached to it.

I think that's on you and you can report that someone but their name should be next to it.

If you know they have a track record of speaking other things that are really interesting area.

It will be interesting to observe whether Westminster journal shift their position to the one that you're suggesting we can have to leave it there.

Thanks to all of you.

There was James Ball Joey Jones Jane martinson Michael crick.

We're also joined by Eleanor Langford and McCann don't forget you can catch up with past editions of the media Show by the BBC Sounds app that you can download onto your smartphone anytime you choose needless to say the story is going to be covered in p.m.

In the moment on Radio 4 from me and the media show team.

Thanks very much for listening bye-bye.

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