Interesting developments over the last few weeks with regard to Tory HQ and press office (CCHQ).
Following normal procedure, if the SKWAWKBOX has a story concerning Tory MPs, councillors, candidates etc, we call CCHQ to allow them to comment. Until fairly recently, that all ran smoothly enough – though no doubt to the considerable discomfiture of various Tory functionaries, as this blog has broken news of racist tweets by councillors, candidates who’ve never read the party’s manifesto and other embarrassments.
But for several weeks now, CCHQ has become a black hole. Phone calls for comment result in a request to email the query – and emails go out and remain unanswered, in spite of chasers.
This week, the SKWAWKBOX broke the story of a vile, racist tweet by the official Twitter account of Harrow Conservatives, which was quickly deleted and followed by panicked moves to try to obscure its source.. The SKWAWKBOX contacted CCHQ, spoke to a polite person named Gareth instead of the usual Harriet and, as usual, was asked to send it by email. Which we did.
Nothing came back.
The story was picked up in turn by Evolve Politics and the Canary. One or both of those publications contacted CCHQ – much later than this blog did – and got a response in which the Tories, laughably, tried to deny it was an official Tory account in spite of this:
Which the SKWAWKBOX also archived in case the Tories deleted it. Which they did.
The SKWAWKBOX is not exactly unknown these days – and the people at CCHQ press office know the publication well from many calls and emails. They’re aware it’s well read – and very well aware that it’s a source quoted and relied upon by BBC News and even right-wing publications.
So it seems that we frighten them – that a call from the SKWAWKBOX is a signal to batten down the hatches, put their fingers in their ears and hope it all goes away.
If that’s the hope – that refusing to answer will mean we won’t run the story – they’re always going to be disappointed. Stories run anyway – and are often picked up by other independent left publications and the mainstream media.
Ignoring media queries is desperately bad practice for a political party, however much you don’t like them. Even if a story is embarrassing for you, it’s best to have some kind of comment included. So it’s a sign of something seriously amiss – as well as unprofessional.
The pending queries with them – some of which have been unanswered for weeks – include a suspended Tory councillor ignoring her suspension, concerns about possible Tory plans to avoid repaying industrial tribunal fees and evidence suggesting a Tory MP broke the party’s own rules to attempt to stack his selection as a parliamentary candidate. Articles on those will follow when remaining loose ends are tied up.
Other stories have already been run, including various articles on the desperate Tory lies about student debt.
But we’re busy people at the SKWAWKBOX and don’t have time to waste on people playing ostrich and sticking their heads in the sand – even if they’re at CCHQ. So this email was sent to them:
If you’ve decided not to respond to queries from this publication, say so and we won’t waste our time asking – instead we’ll say you declined to comment, as that is what a refusal to respond amounts to.
Of course, we probably won’t get an answer to that one either – but now everybody knows about it. And if you see a Tory with her/his fingers in ears shouting lalala at the top of his/her voice, it’s probably someone hoping the mean, nasty SKWAWKBOX will stop frightening them.
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