Nick Clegg’s office has denied that it was ever the Deputy Prime Minister’s intention to "exclude the press" from his much ridiculed appearance with the Business Secretary, Vince Cable in a Piccadilly pub this morning.
The only reason that the doors were locked to keep out the horde of reporters, photographers and television camera crews was that the venue was too small to accommodate them all, a spokesman from his office claimed.
The spokesman added that it is unfair to accuse someone as "approachable" as the Deputy Prime Minister of "excluding the press". Mr Clegg is the only government minister to have a weekly phone in programme, on LBC, and to have held television debates with Nigel Farage.
The organisers of the photocall in the Queen’s Head, Piccadilly, planned it as a relatively low key affair that would highlight the Government’s new initiative to help pub tenants. The subject matter meant that a pub was the most appropriate venue. They invited a tiny "pool" of media representatives to be there to cover the event for the entire media.
“If you have a place where there is limited space - as there was here - it’s fairly standard that you invite a ‘pool’,” Mr Clegg’s spokesman said. “We invited a pooled TV camera, a pooled stills camera, the Press Association, and LBC. It was a standard photocall organised in a standard way that somehow got boiled into a story about excluding the press.”
Unfortunately for the organisers, the journalists did not see the event in the same light. They saw it as a political stunt that was supposed to repair the damage caused by the previous week’s revelation that the Lid Dem peer, Michael Oakeshott, an old friend and ally of Mr Cable, had been manoeuvring to try to topple Mr Clegg from the party leadership.