IT was very nice of the London Assembly to invite news providers to come in and explain the pressures facing local journalism in the capital, yet within minutes of the session opening at City Hall this morning the row of guests was left looking quite bemused as members of the Economy Committee began feuding among themselves about what was relevant – and what wasn’t.
In fact, it was rather like being invited around for a dinner party and then having to sit awkwardly while the hosts argue in front of you about which one of them was to blame for burning the potatoes.
The cause of this hectic welcome? George Osborne’s surprise appointment of the Evening Standard last week, with the guests immediately asked to comment on whether this would be good for the distribution of news in London. The NUJ’s Laura Davison went first, promptly calling on the Tory MP to withdraw from the position, as it had been “gifted” to him, and for the paper to re-run its appointment process. This immediately sparked a gavel-clocking row between Labour chair Fiona Twycross and Kemi Badenoch, the Conservative assembly member who argued that calling on a private company to change its choice of appointment was not in the frame of reference for the meeting.
It all got quite snarly: Ms Badenoch told Ms Twycross that she was glad that she would not be chairing another meeting, “it’s very sad, Fiona”. Ms Twycross: “Please be quite, Kemi”. And we had only been sat there for 15 minutes. Our local member Andrew Dismore got involved too, telling the meeting: “If a Labour politician had been appointed to this job, Kemi would be the first to jump up and down.” Ms Badenoch disputes this and continues to fight her corner… until it all ends with angry eyebrows, another bump of the gavel and apologies to the guests.
Thinking about it, this was probably not the best way to show a pride (or whatever the right collective term is here) of editors that its worth sending their reporters to cover more London Assembly meetings, even if the session grew more productive as the session went on.