Toadying Tory MPs line up to defend PM amid Number 10 journalist walkout

Written by John Johnston on 4 February 2020 in Diary

Tory MPs were quick to defend the Prime Minister against accusations he was diminishing press freedoms following a major spat with political journalists.

A host of sycophantic Tory MPs have leapt to the defence of the Prime Minister amid a growing row over his treatment of the press.

It comes after Lee Cain, the Prime Minister's Director of Communications, barred a group of journalists from attending a briefing with Britain's chief Brexit negotiator David Frost, prompting a walkout.

But in an urgent Commons question on Tuesday about the incident, a raft of Tory MPs pitched soft-ball questions to junior Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith who'd been ordered to respond to the row.

Former cabinet minister Damian Green was the first to weigh in, saying the walkout was “fake outrage”.

Mr Green, who was sacked from the Cabinet after he was found to have lied about the presence of porn on his House of Commons computer following a news story, added the row was a “mass outbreak of snowflakery”.

His comments were followed by a host of newly-elected Conservative backbenchers who were keen to score brownie points with party whips by asking clearly scripted questions about Labour’s record on treatment of the press, or about the Treasury’s plans to cut business rates for local press.

Newly elected Ruislip MP David Simmonds described the row as a “storm in a Westminster teacup”, while Bishop Auckland’s prominent new MP Dehenna Davison said Labour’s decision to raise the issue in the Commons was evidence of them “obsessing with the Westminster bubble”.

But the ruse was quickly spotted by SNP Peter Grant who said it was “not a good look” for Tory whips to be “scurrying along the green benches desperately handing out crib sheets to tell their own backbenchers what to ask”.

Meanwhile, fellow SNP MP Pete Wishart compared Ms Smith’s performance at the dispatch box to that of former Iraqi information minister ‘Comical Ali’.

When she was eventually forced to answer some more hard-hitting questions from the opposition benches, Ms Smith was less than forthcoming with some proper answers...



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