The Wandsworth Borough News is claiming a victory for the small community newspaper after scooping the nationals to reveal that David Blunkett used House of Commons notepaper to object to a private planning matter.
Reporter Saxon East, who broke the story, said the exclusive showed how local weeklies could still deliver good national scoops, and told of the tense wait until the paper’s press day.
The story began after a reader tip-off about an objection to a development close to a house owned by David Blunkett. The objection was from the MP’s tenant.
Deciding to investigate further, Saxon soon found another letter of objection – which appeared to be from David Blunkett – and was written on Commons-headed notepaper despite being a private matter.
The letter also said the MP was a “former resident” and did not mention that he owned a house in the area.
Saxon, (29), said: “It was Wednesday and we had just gone to print so we had a tense six days before before we could break the story.
“The key thing was to make sure the letter was real and not a spoof – we didn’t want to be caught out by a prankster.
“We approached David Blunkett and his advisor on the Tuesday, and he admitted he had made an honest mistake.”
With guidance from the editor, deputy editor and news editor, Saxon was able to firm up the story and splash it on the paper’s front page.
Saxon said: “We were quite worrried that it would get out and were told not to tell anyone, so it was fantastic to break the story.
“As soon as it came out it was picked up by the Evening Standard and then the rest of the media.
“Some people have said that the media should stop hounding David Blunkett but I think here we have a good sytem which allows us to keep an eye on the activities of politicians.”