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Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
'Farewell' to a semi-secret clique
Houses of Parliament at night
Journalists have a right to enter Members' Lobby
The Westminster lobby is the name given to a small group of parliamentary journalists who enjoy privileged access to certain parts of Parliament.

The semi-secret clique has held regular meetings with Downing Street spokesmen and ministers on and off the record since 1884.

Critics despise the system, citing it as a means of news management, making it easier for the government to get away with putting a misleading slant on embarrassing stories or to make unfounded attacks on its enemies.

Former Labour prime minister Harold Wilson
Mr Wilson stopped lobby briefings

But others attribute its success to mutual trust between spokesmen and the Press.

However, not everyone has seen it this way.

Labour's longest serving prime minister, Harold Wilson, at one point drew a halt to the briefings, claiming the lobby could not be trusted.


It was suggested that its members had spotted a deliberate attempt to mislead them.

The Guardian, The Independent and The Scotsman boycotted the lobby meetings in the late 1980s, protesting against only being allowed to quote "Downing Street sources".

The lobby is named after the Members' Lobby at Westminster, which journalists have a right to enter - except during a division - in order to interview MPs.

Information passed to journalists in these circumstances is often given on the understanding that the source will not be revealed.

See also:

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