Tory MP clashes with local newspaper after refusing to write column about partygate

Julie Marson says she will not be ‘dictated to’ by editor

Adam Forrest
Monday 24 January 2022 15:21
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Boris Johnson says ‘nobody told me’ Downing Street party broke lockdown rules

A Conservative MP has got into an angry spat with her local newspaper after she refused to write about the partgate scandal engulfing Downing Street.

Julie Marson declined a request by Bishop’s Stortford Independent to cover the controversy in her regular column, later saying she would not be “dictated to”.

The paper ran an editorial in place of her column explaining why the MP for Hertford and Stortford’s submitted piece on train services and hare coursing had not been published, with extracts of an email from her office.

Ms Marson accused editor Paul Winspear of “mansplaining”, adding on Twitter: “Women didn’t get the vote and go into parliament to be dictated to by anyone, including newspaper editors. Try and get it right next time.”

“I asked my MP colleagues all over the country if local papers ever demanded what they must write about and the answer was no,” Ms Marson said in a statement to the Hold the Front Page website.

She added: “So the normal state of affairs is MPs are free to write on whatever topic they choose. It may be an unwritten rule, but it’s what is happening right now across the country.”

MP Julie Marson’s column was replaced by an editorial co

Mr Winspear responded by telling the website he was “bamboozled” by the criticism. “It’s one of those situations where our readers, Facebook and Twitter followers, said it all for us,” he said.

The editor added: “It’s a spectacularly misjudged overreaction by [Mrs Marson’s staff] to a not unreasonable request by me.”

Several Tory MPs have said they are waiting for the outcome of the partygate report before deciding whether to send a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson to the 1922 committee of backbenchers.

While many have made statements condemning the reported drinks gatherings at No 10 and Whitehall departments, few have criticised the prime minister’s own actions publicly.

Senior Tory MP David Davis told the Today programme he would wait for the outcome of the report by senior civil servant Sue Gray before making his final decision on whether Boris Johnson should resign.

Last week, Mr Davis told the prime minister: “In the name of God, go.”

But the former minister said on Monday that he would wait “three or four days” after Ms Gray’s report before asking the PM to resign. “I think it’s pretty likely I would want him to go, but I will wait for those few days,” he said.

The former party leadership contender added: “At the moment he has a legacy of having delivered Brexit and having brought us through the pandemic. As we carry on – as we may do, month in, month out – it will do huge damage to the Conservative Party.”

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