Labour has defended its decision to pick a regional journalist to ask Jeremy Corbyn a question “because of her gender” – at a speech to which the party had failed to invite her.
Sarah Ward, left, who works as a local democracy reporter for JPIMedia and the BBC in Northamptonshire, had initially not received an invite to Mr Corbyn’s speech in Corby yesterday and only attended after being told about it by “friendly local members” of the party.
After the event at Pen Green children’s centre, Sarah revealed she had been told by a member of Labour’s media team she had been picked to ask Mr Corbyn a question because there had been “too many male reporters in attendance.”
The party has since defended the reasoning behind the decision, saying it “always seeks” to promote gender equality.
“We were not invited – told it was because it was going to be a national event but since learned from other local media they were invited on Friday.”
She added: “As the local paper we were not invited (not sure why) but when did turn up I was informed by one of the Labour media team I would be picked to ask a question because too many male reporters in attendance. Overheard by others. Anyway, storm in teacup.”
“I made sure I took questions from women members and said so on stage because I was conscious we’d had a lot of male journos speaking.”
The failure to invite Sarah in the first place had been revealed by Kate Cronin, Sarah’s colleague at JPIMedia weekly the Northamptonshire Telegraph.
Also posting on Twitter, she wrote: “Thankfully we knew about it because the entire email list of East Midlands Labour supporters was invited last week, and friendly local members told us. However, it’s infuriating that a man who talks about how important the free press is, and how vital local papers are to their communities, hasn’t bothered to make sure we’re there today.
“We’ve sent a reporter anyway, of course. And this is not unique to the Labour Party. We often get told about visiting senior politicians with only an hour’s notice.
“They know we’re low on staff and it’s really difficult for us to cover these events at short notice. It’s almost as if they don’t want us there… and when all the national papers have gone back to London, we’ll still be here reporting the real stories from Pen Green.”
A Labour spokesperson told HTFP: “We always seek to give access to local papers and promote gender equality.”