Senior Tory ministers are 'avoiding live interviews to rely on statements and scripts'

Some major current affairs programmes and radio stations have been unable to interview a government minister since May

Lizzie Dearden
Wednesday 16 September 2015 07:31
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Immigration Minister James Brokenshire has been conspicuous by his absence from interviews during the refugee crisis, Chris Hemmings argued
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire has been conspicuous by his absence from interviews during the refugee crisis, Chris Hemmings argued

Tory ministers are avoiding live interviews as they increasingly rely on carefully scripted statements and speeches, a journalist has claimed.

Chris Hemmings, who works at London radio station LBC, said that despite the prominence of the refugee crisis, one of his colleagues had not been able to interview a Home Office minister since May’s general election.

The lack of senior Conservatives willing to appear on Sky News has reportedly been raised as a concern at a news meeting, he said, and a Channel 4 correspondent complained that ministers only agreed to an interview if they have a “policy drum to beat”.

As the refugee crisis continues to dominate the news agenda, Theresa May has given few interviews on Britain's immigration policy

“It’s not just Home Office ministers avoiding interviews; they’re almost all becoming mysteriously ‘unavailable’ to broadcasters in an increasingly worrying trend,” he wrote for The Independent Voices.

“It seems that, unless you’re Andrew Marr or a Today Programme presenter, your access to ministers has been greatly restricted.”

But even the BBC appears to be having issues. Nick Sutton, the prominent editor of Radio 4’s World at One wrote on Twitter: “We've asked to [interview] a Minister from Home Office, DFID or FCO on Syrian refugees. Just been told none available.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s focus has been dominated by the leadership election, which will see a new Leader of the Opposition elected on Saturday.

Mr Hemmings argued that when politicians become “unavailable” for questioning, they are unaccountable.

A backbench Conservative MP told him it was a "f***ing disgrace" that his senior colleagues were declining interviews.

“We’re only left with carefully worded statements, on [the politicians’] terms…each phrase is carefully selected by a team of strategists,” he added.

“There is no replacement for live one-to-one broadcast interviews.”

When The Independent asked the Conservative Party for an explanation, a spokesperson said: “We don’t comment on process stories.”

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