The London Evening Standard, aka London Daily Bozza, clearly has a close relationship with more than one Tory, as they were privy to an early briefing on the Budget statement to be announced to Parliament by the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet. This was not initially a problem, provided they did not go to press before he had spoken.
That the Chancellor is the first to speak his own words sounds like a statement of the obvious, and the precedent, along with its result, is well known: before giving his autumn statement in 1947, Hugh Dalton chatted with a journalist who then got the information into print before the speech had been completed, and while the Stock Exchange was still open. He was required to resign as a result.
And the behaviour of the press has recently been sympathetic, as Piers “Morgan” Moron recalled earlier today. The then Daily Mirror editor was leaked Ken Clarke’s November 1996 Budget statement more or less in toto, but handed it back. Moron’s fellow editors mostly said they’d have run with it, although they may have had a later problem with the courage-reality continuum.
So what of the Standard? To the evident delight of Mil The Younger and his shadow Chancellor “Auguste” Balls, an unnamed staffer there Tweeted the news and the Labour front bench knew what Osborne was going to say before he had even considered standing up. And if there were red faces on the Government benches, this was as nothing to the mood at the Standard.
Political Editor Joe Murphy took to Twitter to strike a suitably contrite note: “I wish to apologise for a very serious mistake by the Evening Standard earlier which resulted in our front page being Tweeted ... We are so sorry to the House of Commons, to the Speaker and to the Chancellor for what happened. We shall be apologising to them”. Well, that’s what you get with pre-briefing.
And not everyone responded to the leak news in sombre terms: Pa Broon’s former spinner Charlie Whelan – the one who had to go after himself leaking information – responded with “Don’t worry @joemurphylondon they won’t lock you in the Tower for leaking [the] budget. I used to do it all the time!” Which of Brown’s early budgets he is talking about is not mentioned.
Meanwhile, the unfortunate young hack who maybe inadvertently clicked prematurely has been suspended, as Standard editor Sarah Sands (whose appointment met with Bozza’s approval) explained “We have immediately reviewed our procedures. We are devastated that an embargo was breached and offer our heartfelt apologies”.
Lighten up, Standard people. Stuff happens.