Regional press representation at Westminster has declined to an all-time low as newspaper group cutbacks continue to bite.
The Liverpool Echo has become the latest regional daily to axe its lobby correspondent with Ian Hernon set to leave at the beginning of next month.
The decision has sparked a protest from local MPs with Liverpool Riverside MP Louise Ellman tabling an early day motion which has so far been signed by 28 colleagues.
It praises Ian for his “straightforward reportage and political analysis” and says his departure after 33 years in the lobby “could result in a diminution of Parliamentary reporting.”
However Ian’s exit is only part of a wider crisis facing the regional lobby with several leading titles deeming the service expendable.
Ian’s departure will leave the three biggest-selling titles in England – the Echo, the Manchester Evening News, and the Wolverhampton-based Express and Star, all without a dedicated Westminster reporter.
Express and Star publisher the Midland News Association, which until recently had two correspondents in the lobby, axed its London editor Sunita Patel earlier this year.
The MEN has had no-one at Westminster since dispensing with long-serving political editor Ian Craig in 2009. Ian tragically died a few months later, with Tony Blair leading the tributes.
Jon Walker, who covers for the Birmingham Post and Mail, is understood to have survived the latest round of job cuts at Trinity Mirror Midlands, but has added the Coventry Evening Telegraph to his portfolio.
Other major daily titles without any Westminster representation include the Yorkshire Evening Post, South Wales Echo and The News, Portsmouth.
However north of the border, The Scotsman, The Herald and the Press and Journal, Aberdeen, all retain their own dedicated political editors, with Calum Ross recently replacing veteran P&J correspondent David Perry who has retired.
Northcliffe Media also retains a three-person team at Westminster covering all its daily titles, while PA’s Lobby Extra service, run by Rob Merrick, continues to service a large number of titles.
Responding to Ms Ellman’s EDM, Liverpool Echo editor Alastair Machray said: “Trading conditions in the media industry remain very difficult and like all businesses we have to keep costs under constant review and must continually evolve if we are to remain competitive, efficient and profitable.
“The decision not to keep the role of Liverpool Echo political correspondent at Westminster was made against this background with great reluctance.
“We are putting in train arrangements to ensure that we still have regular contact with our region’s MPs so we can continue to give our readers an excellent service and keep them fully informed about the many important issues with which their elected parliamentary representatives are involved.”