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Read this: Inside the No 10 Christmas party scoops

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Inside the No 10 Christmas party scoops…



BBC sounds music Radio podcasts hello, this is the media show from BBC Radio 4 hello yes this week is story of two massive scoops and now resignation.

It was typically up from the Daily Mirror who first reported there have been a Christmas party at Downing Street last December over a week later for you my TV news release the video showing Downing Street staff last December joking about a party at number 10 during lockdown the party and the video dominated prime minister's question this weekend far away from Westminster Ant and Dec making jokes about it.

Who was at the party as a hashtag on Twitter and interest is surging so we're gonna learn how this happened Pippa and Paul welcome to the media show.

Hi Rose I well as a course you know allegra Stratton is now resigned as an adviser to the prime minister.

This is what she's had to say outside her house this afternoon seem to make light of the rules that people were doing everything to obey that was never my intention.

I regret remotes for the rest of my days for my apologies to all of you at home for them for you release the story yesterday evening this resignations the results of it.

Did you imagine it would have such an immediate impact when you was going to be in story raspberries.

Of course there have been has been talk of this Downing Street party ever since the story but what I haven't quite anticipated was the extraordinary reaction that there has been from the pub.

I think this is what we call in the trade cut through some more patronising via times, but I think the public really did grab hold of this story and feel this story in their bones because

Huge sacrifices over the past 2 years we all have and it appeared that those sacrifices were not being made in number 10 well, Paul and Pippa you're going to be with us through the half hour and examine what this story reveals about the relationship between the government and the lobby to help us.

Do that will be Katy Perry at director of communications to Theresa May when she was prime minister Michael Craig police responding with mailplus and Kitty Donaldson the UK political editor for Bloomberg news and will hear from all of them in a minute, but Pippa if I could start with you.

You start this ball rolling last week.

When did you first hear about the party actually first heard a rumour is where you back in January but they would just that and I wasn't able to stand she ate.

I tried my best but didn't manage to get there and then bite a month ago.

I got handed described as a metaphorical brown paper envelope which contains enough.

For me to start asking questions again, so I then spent several weeks speaking to sources about whether party of taking place and then one side established that it had speaking to them about who was at its.

What was done at the party.

You know the secret Santa and the and the festive games and drinks and nibbles and so on and then we were just really waiting for a moment that it by the right time to publish these sources dictate how you communicate.

Fun times and it depends how well you know people sometimes.

It's face-to-face other times.

It's over the phone the rusted have varying degrees of security which people is a tech-savvy will be aware of for example.

It's pretty unusual for anybody to put any sensitive information in a text message.

They might do in a WhatsApp they're more likely to and a signal message and best of all these talking on the phone or indeed face-to-face where they are they can speak frankly and openly and not worry about any sort of recording really offer thought they've told you would you do that your regular phone on their regular phone or might even buy a burner phone two to make sure no one could track in the secrets of the tree.

Don't they again it depends not this particular story but it obviously depend on the sensitivity of of the sourcing and indeed of the story and you would obviously as any journalist.

I'm sure it pulling Kitty and Michael would agree your primary Instinct this stupid.

Source said you would never want to do anything that would anyway identify them, so if they wanted you to speak for nearly or in a multi-storey car park with sites or any other any other demand they had then if you felt that they were going to share information available then I suspect misunderstood agree to these conditions so you come back to the story you start having lots of conversations building what you first heard about in January can you pinpoint a moment when you thought my goodness? This is a huge story well last sitting in the number 9 be finger in the same room that pulls video the video that Paul and ITV shows of allegra Stratton was filmed in and listening to the prime minister's official spokesman at the normal lobby briefing and that morning on the radio Dr Jenny Harris the government's the UK Health Security Agency agency chief had suggested that people might want to be careful about how they socialized at Christmas

Back on that in the in the coming weeks because of obsidian virgin.com icon variant and the back of my mind you will asking questions of the p.m.

Spokesman about whether we should be having Christmas party is whether it was wise to follow her advice and what the official guidance was on he made it quite clear that the official guidance said that time was not to cut back on Christmas parties that we could go out and do but that's something that was a bit of a slap done in fact of Jenny Harries I remember sitting here thinking my goodness people talking about Christmas parties again.

We have the uncertainty of what happened to the next few weeks in months with omicron coming out.

This is going to be people's Minds again knows the moment to do the story and you take that decision to do the story but of course journalist contact loan.

We're all part of bigger news organisations, what happens then how many people are involved in assessing whether you've got enough to move with it.

I think haven't been around in this game 4qu.

I'm having one of two scoops under my belt my my superiors trust me that I'm not going to come to them with an allegation that I'm asking to publish the next day and then I'm sure it's not on my my side of my head of News when you said that the editor obviously wanted to be part of that conversation at no point is anybody asked for metre of your my sources.

That's not her works.

They trust that but I do such a present the evidence and took them to the story and they will they all agreed that that was the moment to run the story so you decided to run the story on Tuesday last week, but will you ready to go with it actually quite a lot earlier information.

I need it but I need to sort of my keyboard and bash it out and then quickly early in the day and then just wanted to have a look and then you said want to have a look and people.

Together of the online team discussing headlines it's a bit of an operation and you say that you're editors quite understandably trust you because of your track record, but when you go to them and say ok, I've got sawdust how many sources do they want from you? Is there a particular number that you have to clear again it depends on the story.

I mean I have a personal rule that if you are writing a big story like this.

You can't just do it on the basis of one source unless you have incontrovertible evidence or they are somebody that you trust absolutely implicitly but I've never done a big story like this based on just once I've always preferred multiple source not least because in establishing the facts.

I think it's important to be able to do you know you make it one bit of information somebody else's corroborate something from somebody else and you build up a full picture.

So you know the more they are always how many were there on this particular story several sources on this one so that's your experience will come back to it.

Paul let's bring you in when did you hear about this video?

So we heard about this video sometime ago and it's actually really interesting listening to you to pick her explain her story there because I had a similar experience actually that we we were aware of this video sometime ago but sometimes it takes the work of one journalist to help another journalist and we had some really important considerations when we were looking at this video mean.

It was filmed ultimately in a private settings so the bar for publishing that video it needs a public interest and on first look at the video and before the context of the past few weeks that bar.

We didn't feel was met the when published her first began coming out of Downing Street at the public interest transformed because we were able to demonstrate that perhaps what Downing Street was telling us wasn't quite line with the way they were talking behind the scenes around the time that the party is alleged to have taken place.

I just want to make sure I understood this Paul you'd heard about the video does that mean someone?

Told you I've got a video or maybe even had shown you the video but said you when I'm going to give you a copy of it yet or you just heard rumours around Westminster that the video might exist and someone might have it.

Add women working on my story for several weeks, so we were aware of the video and we will working through the legals and we had a fantastic voyage on battle he was working with us in great detail on all of that but like I save things changed when Pippa story was published or before we took further let's hear some of this video.

Down December just before Christmas and this isn't an actual briefing we should explain Paul this was a practice.

Yeah, so I like a sharpener had been planning to host these televised briefings the first time that televised happened in the UK bit like the White House briefing is already happening America and the idea was that she would come and present what is actually a regular lobby briefing that already takes place, but it would be on camera for the time.

So what she was doing what she was asking colleagues to help her to rehearse.

So they were other press officers and special advisers in the room.

He were throwing her questions that kind of questions that journalists would ask her potentially if you was doing.

Real on that day and she was rehearsing your answers sometimes formerly sometimes less formula, which is actually what you see in the clip that you just played there now.

We were looking at the video and of course the fact that it's had and we noticed some questions coming up again and again about it.

So if you don't mind I've just like to ask you them did ITV pay for the video video? Why did you choose the Blur some faces in it, but not everyone's so again guys that comes back to public interest and obviously the repercussions for those your identified quite severe as we seem to LEGO strathand resignation today and we felt that we only wanted to identify those people who had said something that was in the public interest and there were people in the room who participants perhaps not particularly active participants in the rehearsal that day.

Will they had made interventions that we didn't feel met that test to be in the public interest and you tweeted it out.

Evening I saw it cost thousands and thousands of Us saw it and one thing that was curious was initially there was a short clip and then I went back on Twitter and everyone was going hold on this more now.

Tell us about the decision-making about releasing the shorter version before the longer there's an interesting dilemma for broadcasters and newspapers these days which is how much do you reveal your hand on social media alone because I had a news organisation you like people to consume your content for your own platform on ITV News website and ideally would like people to do is going to go and read the full story eternalism.

That's taking all the time a lot of effort so what we decide to do was to release a short clip which gave people the flavour of the stories they can understand what they would be clicking through to read more about and then the video with the full context of the article was there on the website to be in full and final question we've seen being asked a lot is whether this was filmed off a screen or whether it's actually the

Video that's something I can't get into with two holes because as people were saying earlier protection of our sources is just to be upmost importance to us and that means not just protecting the sources identity but protecting how material comes into our hands well, that's of course you know Paul and everyone listening.

I'm sure knows at this question earlier coronavirus questions earlier.

This was the dominant issue and Boris Johnson turn to the video that pulled up 10r apologise unreservedly to be a bloody discos up and down the country and I apologise for the impression that it gives but I repeat little speaker that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that and that no covid rules were broken and that is what I have been repeatedly.

And peppers you listen to that and listen to the prime minister say that essentially your description of the event that you reported on is wrong.

How does that feel? It's no different from what I've been saying if you this week frankly and you know I guess what it comes down to a couple of things one is what your interpretation of a party is and in my mind 40 to 50 people crowded cheek-by-jowl into a medium-sized room drinking eating the balls playing party games do secret Santa until past midnight even if it is in a work environment is a party and secondly the legalities of it and there are only three areas in which the government 2.2 discovering Gathering at this time was within the rules one is whether it was permitted events, but that would have been allowed between households and clearly there was this instance the second is regarded as a reasonable excuse for Gathering work and vomited it anything anybody with regard to work Christmas party is as a reasonable work.

And totally is this sort of dispute of time as to whether this sort of event was allowed permitted because could regulations don't apply on in government departments now.

That is a very cheeky monster government because if I don't know where that is legal minds on that then it would literally be one set of rules for government and one set of rules for everyone else which I think I've been incredibly bad look for them.

Thank you very much.

You're going to stay with us before I bring another three guess.

I'll also mention and this is a story that picture is very closely connected to lots of people have been following the Downing Street Christmas party story and some comparisons with the Barnard Castle Story involving Dominic Cummings if you want to hear the inside a can of that story what papers editor Alison Phillips of the mirror long width pathfinder editor of The Guardian spoke mediashow on an earlier edition of the program a few months back which you can still listen to online now.

That's brilliant Kitty Donaldson from Bloomberg news Michael crick from Mail Plus and Katy Perry from

Communications and former director of communications when Theresa May was prime minister ktr wonder how you assess how the government's handle the last 910 days disaster and one following another I feel worse at prime Minister's Questions today not better and I never like to see an advisor.

Go and try on the door because actually the person that went home early ended up taking the rat for it and I don't think that's fair either.

He said that his story for the offences sorry for the video and story for the impression that gives but there's sorry for the party and there's no comments on other parties that have been the allegations have been put in today as well, so I think the public I'm really falling for it normal journalist either and I think it's been wrong but he has a track record of of not saying sorry for things and he is the prime minister and was mayor of London something that you were involved in so you know that's been a successful political tactic for him.

Anything is the Boris Johnson is a people give birth Lee weigh-ins way, they never give any other politician that kind of only way they approach the immigration Johnson that he doesn't act like something is not that.

I'm not saying his wife in the white.

It is what it is and they seem to buy that and I seem to like it.

I mean no breaks in Sidcup you're only a week ago.

So this is a moral issue, and it's also an issue where people in stuck at home and and lost loved ones during lockdown and you know they don't take me to that might be the moment.

Where is that runs out now someone has been offering a commentary on the last few days has been Dominic Cummings former adviser to the prime minister and he tweeted some lobby hacks for also at parties in the number 10 flat so they're trying to bury story Michael Craig you covered Westminster for many years.

Do you think that one of the specifics of that particular application but either situations in which lobby journalists either don't maximize their story or Turner

Completely less the case than it used to them 30 years ago 3040 years ago lobby.

Journalist would turn a blind eye to all sorts of things on in government in order to preserve their sources.

I think that is lot less the case these days.

I think the lobby is lobby.

Journalists political journalist those based at Westminster a lot tougher on politicians and rightly so I think it's difficult in this case because if some of the people some of the lobby journalists were at the party there potentially sources soundwell, shouldn't we have journalist exposes which other journalists were at the party.

It's very very tricky for people doing this story at home to get the story from bats other journalists and then and then exposing they can't do that.

Can you have been reporting on this were there any journalists at the party at the Christmas party at number 10 on December 18th?

The journalist who joined the stare at the allegations Dominic Cummings making a separate date in the Downing Street flat and possibly people who report jealous that may be friends with the prime Minister's wife reports that I've written no other journalists to say other no John Lewis for present.

Could you bring you in what's your approach? What's Blume surprise to when to socialize and interact with politicians and when not too difficult question?

Well, obviously as a reporter I go from c sources all the time and I have coffees and I have and lunches with senior politicians and sometimes to go to parties that I'm invited as a number 10 Christmas party for journalists.

We're not sure if that's going to go ahead this year be invited paper.

I hope so it goes ahead.

Sorry kiss you interrupted my friends and so there's a professional detachment there, when do you feel that detachment Paul as you watch the consequences of your story have a personal impact on allegra Stratton and potentially on others too.

The the story involving LEGO Stratton interesting One Plus 90 vehicles, she was a well-liked and actually very kind former colleagues her many of us TV news, so that was an interesting dimension when we were tackling the story but we decided that we had to treat it as if she was any other subject to the reports where we have to just maintain and that professional separation at the story and imagine she was any other thing in number 10 who perhaps you didn't know anywhere near as well, but it was human beings and you have sympathies and you have fever people don't like anyone to see anyone suffering because of a story that we broken but ultimately you know it's the public interest that we serve as journalists to you manage these relationships on the other side when you were particularly when you were working with Theresa May how did you view them as friendships as working relationships as nothing more than something that serve both.

I think it was a working relationship, but I know many of his done this before it enters and I'm at 10 so that helped also a game of Cat and Mouse I think that the general feel that you're constantly trying to cover up but then we feel and the other side that just picking over every single word and trying to make something out of it, so I just say that there is skullduggery or wrongdoing when actually that the A1 slip of the word and all the sudden new territory.

I think that they are cosy relationships between special advisers and journalists and that's house on the feeding of stories goes but it does come back to how your principal wants to act reason.

I didn't that cosy relationship.

You didn't want that feeding structure and it changed quite differently from my relationship with Jeremy spin the ones that David Cameron's team had before I'm going to be us and we chose the BBC and the journey from the sun to ask questions of trump from UK side and afterwards you call them your friends and I said no they're not off friends.

We live in a democracy and they hold us.

I didn't like that very much.

No I imagine he didn't and you talk about the agendas both of politicians and their advisers but also of journalists and Michael when you're considering source information coming in your Direction presumably your acutely aware that whoever's giving it to you may well having a gender why do they were and why they come to me? What is it? They're trying to get across.

Can I believe them and depending on whether they got an interest in this coming out or whether it's just something that happened to know is become part of the assessment and part of the calculation that you have to make us.

How many and what strength of other sources uni this whole thing about friendships allegra Stratton used to be my producer on news now.

I mean I was on friendly terms of that.

I can't station close friend these days Robin Gibb was the same he was a colleague of mine used to work for Theresa May

Battery work with me and the BBC so these relationships are very very difficult my own style is to try and keep a certain distance as much as I can but they have been relationships in the past hour in The Blair Years Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson with very close to certain journalists and all and it always seems to be those that came out with the story with favorable to the The Blair government Kitty I wonder if you agree with that assessment absolutely I started working years and was very young.

I didn't know many people and it seems to me that certain senior types together at the times of the time.

We're getting older older scoops and you know my employees.

My phone contacts I think the same thing happens and you have to take something which has Michael said you know why but no but presumably if they give you information a couple of times and you don't run a story in the end.

They going to start thinking well.

Just journalist isn't much use to me because I'm giving any information, but they're not putting it in the public domain and wonder why they say to you when you've got a sore soon gives you a regular good patient and then you get some information.

That's adverse to that soars and you have to beat the danger of losing.

That's if you run it.

I think you have to run.

Ultimately you have to judge the story on the public interest and not whether you're going to mess up a potential future source, but it does those kind of dilemmas you get all the time in this business of political journalism, which makes it all the more fascinating fascinating listening to all home straight of this edition of the media show Peppa and Paul I must ask you when you're in the middle of the maelstrom when the information is out there and it's having an impact.

Are you talking to the sources who gave you this information you in touch with them saying look you'll see I told you if you give me this information.

He would have this impact.

I'm in touch the sources but normally it's more of a case of you know are you ok? Are you how are you finding out with this sort of almost like a duty of care.

So definitely absolutely an accent.

Still in touch with some sources for the castle that goes on for a long time.

Have you spoken to the person who gave you the video we have done and I would absolutely repeat what you just said about duty of care, and I think that's something you have to bear in mind all the way through is that we're all of us on this show today I used to operating in a media environment often the sources that was speaking to have no experience whatsoever of the media until the point of which there are thrust into the spotlight and that to some degree was the case with our Source at Frost or yesterday, so we absolutely have a duty of care to them to make sure they're ok that they're dealing with that pressure.

Ok, because they're anxious and make any sauce would be about being found out and and we have to make sure that we can hold them that really I've only 30 seconds Michael but in those s.

We have a resignation today a high-profile resignation does the story still have more in it.

Do you think a lot more?

Strattons Duty nose to go round the local police station and tell them what she knew we got a cabinet secretary enquiry police enquiry release potential pleasing seriously this is going to run and run and there is a huge anger on the conservatory back benchers amongst conservative ministers and so many other Conservatives have been provided by the defender prime minister and clearly don't believe Michael that is the last point of today's programme.

Thank you very much for 5 with you.

I suspect we could have talked about this for a lot longer, but terrific rear Paul brand interior Michael crick and Katie donnison have been my guests on today's mediashow.

Don't forget you can listen back to all of our auditions via the BBC Sounds app, but for the moment for this edition from me and the media show team thanks for listening and bye bye.


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