A leading political journalist has thrown a public hissy fit because Labour took a story to someone else

Jeremy Corbyn and Paul Waugh
Kerry-anne Mendoza

The political editor of Huffington Post UK has issued a 19-tweet, f-word laden rant to provide “proof of how utterly unprofessional, time wasting + downright shite some of Labour’s shadow cabinet really are”. And what major exposé did Paul Waugh drop on us? Labour had taken a story to a rival publication.

Entering the Waugh Zone

Waugh’s political email round up is called the Waugh Zone. And it’s an appropriate title, given the munitions he set off in the direction of the Labour party overnight.

We won’t repost the entire 19 tweet thread here, but it is worth witnessing in all its glory on Waugh’s twitter feed. We will pick some choice moments though.

In summary: Waugh has a lovely coffee with a member of the Labour shadow cabinet in which they agree to investigate something bad the Conservatives did. The Labour MP is tasked with checking facts and figures at the House of Commons library (which journalists don’t have access to). Then after some delay, the MP tells Waugh the numbers are actually shockingly bad – a big story. But they’re taking the story to a rival publication as an exclusive.

This should raise a wry smile from anyone who’s followed Waugh for some time. Some might argue his positions on Corbyn could be considered hostile. Such as treating the departure of Corbyn’s staff (who reportedly left on good terms) as an ‘exodus’. Prior to HuffPo UK, Waugh worked at The Independent, London Evening Standard, and Politics Home. None of which have many kind words for politics outside the neoliberal centre.

Waugh’s response to not getting the story he wanted from Labour was to create a story. A story that would have his fellow Westminster press hounds salivating. He laid just enough clues to make sure his peers would know who he was targeting.

It’s an insight into just how ego-driven and personality-based Westminster journalism has become (or always was).

The reaction 

Waugh’s fellow Westminster press pack circled as expected. New Statesman editor Jason Cowley, who recently ran a full front page hit job on Corbyn, joined the fray:

https://twitter.com/JasonCowleyNS/status/848075279423680512

When confused readers handed Waugh some tough questions, Politics Home editor Kevin Schofield took to his defense.

Buzzfeed’s political editor Jim Waterson amplified the thread too.

By this morning, it was everywhere.

The Labour grind 

Being passed over for a story has to hurt. No one is denying that. But we would hope that a self-confessed 19-year veteran of Westminster political journalism might have developed a tougher skin. The resulting calamity is testimony to the toxic state of Westminster journalism.

The political editor of a leading publication has issued an expletive-laden rant about a sitting MP, in public, over a lost story. This crosses the line from imbalanced, to unhinged. It’s the petulant tantrum of a press pup, when UK citizens need a veteran news hound. Brexit, the election expenses scandal, the government’s expanding cuts to the welfare state, growing poverty and hunger. These are just some of the issues that should be front and centre in the minds of the Westminster press pack. Instead, it’s a game of swords in the House of Commons toilets.

Far from proving the point Waugh intended, he has provided (accidentally) a view into the Labour grind. This is what the Labour team are dealing with each day. And really, would you want that job?

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