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Monday, 12 September 2011

Boundary Commission Leak Shows Absurdity Of Embargoes

Full leak of Westminster shakeup online leaves newspapers and broadcasters struck dumb - and irrelevant - until midnight.

Crumbling reporting restrictions...

Why on earth did the Boundary Commission think that releasing the results of its reshuffle of English and Northern Irish Westminster constituencies should be kept under wraps until midnight? The shape and size of constituencies is a subject of near obsessive interest to MPs - who like newspapers and broadcasters have already been briefed on the proposals today. All have told to keep quiet until the first minute of tomorrow, but in such an environment leaks are inevitable.

Guido Fawkes has published a complete set of the reform proposals - you can read that here. Some local media are already discussing them - here is something about the Isle of Wight if you are interested. Twitter is, well, atweet with similar details - Nick Bent who was a candidate at Warrington South at the last election has published a link to the proposals for the North West. And MPs are ringing the Guardian to comment, or would like to, were it not for the fact that this newspaper is under embargo.

It's a nonsense. This is the modern day equivalent of the old 14 day rule - the rule that used to prevent the BBC from discussing any area of policy that had been debated in Parliament in the last fortnight. The 14 day rule was dropped in 1957 because it was obviously a nonsense then. That was the era of Suez. But, in an era where news moves that little bit faster, it seems to have returned in a new guise. Broadcasters and newspapers cannot report on or explain the changes to Westminster constituency boundaries, when the whole of Westminster knows the proposals and anybody interested can read all about it online.

If traditional media keep this up, they can look forward to the blogosphere cheerfully stealing some of the easiest scoops known to reporting. Somebody ought to stand up for serious journalism and break ranks. It's only an embargo after all.

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