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Interviewing PM ‘like being forced to stand in stinging nettles’ says reporter

A regional political journalist has described an interview with Theresa May as like “being forced to stand in a patch of stinging nettles.”

Bristol Post politics reporter Esme Ashcroft says her attempts to get an interview with the Prime Minister during a recent visit to her patch compared to an extended version of satirical TV comedy The Thick of It.

Esme has written a first person piece about the saga for the Post, detailing access she was given to the PM.

During the General Election campaign, Mrs May was criticised by a number of regional media outlets over an “outrageous” lack of access – with Plymouth Herald chief reporter Sam Blackledge describing an interview with her as “three minutes of nothing”.

Mrs May during her interview with the Bristol Post

Mrs May during her interview with the Bristol Post

Esme told of how the Post’s news desk was initially told by the Tory central team she would not be able to ask any questions, which was upgraded to one question after the newspaper protested.

Once at the school where the visit was taking place, Esme was then told again by Mrs May’s press team she would not be able to ask any questions – a policy which was later amended to “yes, and then ‘yes, if there is time.'”

She then had to wait with other journalists and cameramen outside a library door for half an hour before being ushered into a corridor where Mrs May was standing with pupils.

Wrote Esme: “By this time the PM had been in the building for almost an hour and so far, all I had to offer my news desk was a few pictures and a short video – much to their chagrin. The next upset came when I broached the usually un-thorny issue of filming.

“There were two other media outlets due to undertake an interview before me, which my photographer, Dan, and I were told we could not film. While a little unusual, this request didn’t bother me too much. But imagine my surprise when Dan was told that he would not be able to film my question.

“After more verbal wrangling, and different answers depending on which press officers Dan and I asked, it was eventually agreed that he would be able to film.

“Finally, after a 75-minute wait, the PM came to the library for her interviews, which went off without a hitch. After a brief 15 minutes with journalists, the Conservative leader was whisked out of Orchard School and on to her next appointment.”

In the end, Esme was able to ask three questions which were filmed.

She concluded: “I don’t lay the blame for this at Mrs May’s door. For me, the whole visit was marked by a palpable sense of paranoia that the Prime Minister would make a slip-up, which would be caught on video and as such had to be obsessively micro-managed by the Tory press team.

“And the result was that the whole 90 minutes was like being in an extended version of The Thick of It. As such, the experience left me feeling less like I had run through a field of wheat and more like I had been forced to stand in a patch of stinging nettles.”


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  • July 3, 2017 at 8:21 am

    To be fair it worked out well for her, tremendous craic.

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  • July 3, 2017 at 11:46 am

    And you wonder why Trump is fighting with CNN? And journalists struggle to get interviews?? Grow up Ms Esme as I see nothing (yet again) about the Government policies and a sad little face about how she isn’t a sparkling wit…. yawn….

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  • July 3, 2017 at 11:48 am

    When you see the crazy coverage given by national media about the smallest slip who can blame political organisers for being control freaks? I doubt the paper’s readers missed anything, to be realistic.

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  • July 3, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Look, not getting an interview is miles better copy than a 10-second non-answer to a silly question. That is, if the reporter can write amusing, witty, observational stuff and the newsdesk can see past their own importance and realise what the readers would prefer. When Miliband came to my uni two years ago, after I fled the office to do a degree, I had a long chat with the bloke from the Daily Mail. He hardly left the coffee shop for two hours and then wrote two pages of hilarious stuff about being p***ed around by the Labour spin machine. Blokes in suits were all over the place, pushing people around and trying to control everything. Blowing all that outdated control freakery apart is the job of the regional journalist, not moaning about how the waves didn’t part for them.

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  • July 3, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    So the reporter making the fuss actually got to ask the questions?
    What’s the problem then and what were the questions ?

    Let’s face it any leading politician will not value the small number of people potentially seeing the piece so will only focus on those media groups reaching vast numbers of potential voters

    Time to move on and accept local regional papers and broadcasting isn’t top of many national figures agendas

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  • July 3, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    “which my photographer, Dan, ”
    Dear Esme i am sure Dan works for the Picture Editor and not you…….or are you a very important reporter…?.
    Photographers work with reporters NOT for them
    How about “which our photographer Dan”

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  • July 4, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    “Picture editor”? Ah, that takes me back…
    Nice to find a reporter who can come up with an original simile, at all events.

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