Carter u-turn and the press

Three cheers for Lord Carter, then.

Except there’s one aspect to this saga that dismays me slightly from a professional point of view.

We as journalists were urged throughout not to report the substance of the discussions on the proposed u-turn. The Sunday Telegraph, it was suggested, had almost derailed the whole process by announcing the likely turnaround last weekend.

U-turn headlines would mean political intransigence, we were told.

Whether or not that’s true I don’t know. But expecting journalists not to report what’s going on is an utterly futile exercise. What it means is that those journalists who are most sympathetic to the point of view being expressed miss the story. That damages their credibility, and ultimately will damage those whose points of view they are helping to express.

Frankly, if politicans and Whitehall are really this nervous about newspaper headlines rather than doing the right thing, then there really is a very cowardly attitude prevailing in government.

And just for the record, so that politicans and officials are clear, the move to change filing dates without consultation was frankly silly, and the government deserves every embarrassing u-turn/cock-up headline in the book.

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