A regional daily’s exclusive which revealed David Cameron’s hypocrisy over cuts in his constituency has finally gone national – nearly a week after it was first published.
The Oxford Mail reported last Friday how the Prime Minister and MP for Witney had written to Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth criticising “unwelcome and counter-productive” plans to close children’s centres.
Labour leaders in Oxfordshire described the letter as “staggering”, and claimed Mr Cameron did not understand the impact of the Government’s policies “in his own backyard.”
However, it was not until this week that national media outlets began to pick up on the exclusive, written by Mail reporter Matt Oliver, with the story finally making it onto BBC Breakfast and the Today Programme yesterday morning.
Mail editor Simon O’Neill told HTFP: “It has come as a bit of a surprise that this story has only just been picked up by the national press as we broke it last Friday.
“Put simply it’s a very good story from a talented regional newspaper reporter with great contacts and a nose for a story.
“Stories like this are being broken by regional newspapers up and down the country every day and feed into the nationals.
“It’s not rocket science but a good example of bread and butter journalism.”
Mr Cameron’s letter, which was leaked to the Mail, also revealed his disappointment with other cuts proposed to elderly day centres and libraries and claimed Oxfordshire’s spending had actually increased over recent years.
Mr Hudspeth responded by sending a six-page response defending plans to make an extra £50m of savings and accusing Mr Cameron of “inaccurate” comments.
Meanwhile the BBC, which has pledged to do more to credit local newspaper stories it uses on its websites, was criticised yesterday for initially failing to credit the Mail in its reports.
Croydon Advertiser chief reporter Gareth Davies tweeted the corporation’s political correspondent Chris Mason about the issue, who responded that he had believed BBC Oxford had the story at the same time as the Mail.
Gareth posted on the social networking site: “The Oxford Mail’s Cameron letter story a lead on BBC Breakfast. No credit to paper. Another example of that ‘partnership’ in action. If the BBC had to explain where each of its stories came from (it should) local/regional papers would get a name check every day.”
Chris later apologised for the mistake and pledged to credit the Mail when covering the story on the BBC One later on yesterday.