Friday 10 April 2020

Gotcha journalism?

The Guardian's 'exclusive' yesterday that Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, "is facing questions" after visiting his elderly parents house is itself facing questions.

The Times's Matt Chorley responded to it by writing:
A story which doesn’t even survive four pars. There are plenty of people who would be in real trouble, including some of my own family, if relatives didn’t travel to leave food/medicine on the doorstep. Credit to Robert Jenrick for looking after his parents.
And the BBC's Andrew Neil commented:
This Guardian story kills itself by para four. So why publish at all?
Mr Jenrick himself tweeted this yesterday:
For clarity - my parents asked me to deliver some essentials - including medicines. They are both self-isolating due to age and my father's medical condition and I respected social distancing rules. 
Meanwhile, today came this tweet from Stephen Canning:

The Daily Mail seems to think he shouldn't live with his wife and children if he works as a cabinet minister in London. 
I first heard about the story while listening to Radio 3's Breakfast this morning. The usual intrusive, BBC-wide news bulletin at 8 o'clock ran the story like this:
Meanwhile, as the Government's again urged people to stay at home, a cabinet minister's had to defend his movements. The Daily Mail reports that Robert Jenrick went from London to his house in Herefordshire after Government guidance said that travel to second homes was not essential. In a statement the Communities Secretary said that he'd been in London on ministerial duties but left once he was able to work from his family home where his wife and children were.
The BBC is going with the Daily Mail's main angle interestingly, and ignoring the Guardian's angle (which that paper is, bizarrely, still sticking with). Presumably, the BBC accepts that the Guardian's angle is untenable.

I could be misunderstanding this story, but if Mr Jenrick's family lives in this 'second home' and he's an essential worker, why is it wrong that he travels back home to them? Surely that angle is just as untenable, as Mr Jenrick seems to have obeyed every one of the Government's own guidelines here.

Update: The title of the post has been amended. And I quite clearly was misunderstanding this story - see comments below. 


  1. Hmmm...I'm not sure this is gotcherism as opposed to journalism. It's the government who have placed the whole country under house arrest. So it is for them to be seen to be following both the letter and the spirit of the law.

    If you can do what he did - join his family at a second home - how does that differ from what the Scottish CMO did? The only difference would seem to be that he travelled separately. Please note ,Scottish CMOs!

    The whole point of the Government policy is to cut down on interactions. Travelling long distances means you have to fill up with petrol, it means you might have to stop at a service station and use the loo, it means you might break down and have to call an AA mechanic...

    1. If he is working in London during the week, attending Cabinet meetings and so on, surely he shouldn't be travelling all over the country at the weekend, possibly bringing something with him to infect his family and others he might meet, miles from London. Isn't that why we have these restrictions in the first place?

    2. You're both quite right about this.

  2. I beg to differ.

    Well, I understood that his house in Herefordshire was his main, family, home - and just like your ordinary garbage collectors, etc., who are equally likely to bring virus home., he travels to work (in London.)

    As one of the MPs tasked with appearing in daily briefings, broadcasting from home wouldn’t be acceptable.

    I suppose, now he’s there (if he is) he’d best stay put, but i don’t agree that his misdemeanour is like the Scottish CMOs. She took her family, twice, to their second home for weekends. She wasn’t delivering anything or ‘going to work’.

    I think Craig was right the first time.


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