Friday, 30 January 2009
A trip to Downing Street.....
This is an updated version based on my Bath Chronicle column of January 28.
On Wednesday night I had the supreme pleasure of walking through the door of the most famous house in Britain - 10, Downing Street. And also, while I was there, the rare chance to meet and talk to the man who calls it home.
Like most newspaper editors, I am very fortunate indeed that I get invited to represent the paper at a wide variety of events.
In a city such as Bath where there is just so much going on, I’m normally only able to accept about one in three of the invitations I receive but I am always incredibly grateful that the paper is considered so important to local life that I find myself on a lot of invite-lists to community events big and small.
I try not to get too blasé or complacent about any invitations I get and to treat each one with equal respect but the one inviting your humble Bath Chronicle editor to a regional media reception with the Prime Minister was one that definitely made me smile.
As I’m sure many people will be aware, the local newspaper industry like so many others, is having rather a tough time at the moment and so I was very pleased that Mr Brown had got together a number of members of our profession so we could talk about the regional press. After all our problems are very similar to that of many companies and we as editors were there to represent not only our own profession but also the cities and communities we passionately serve.
I got to chat to the 'Big Man' for about five minutes along with a couple of other editors and he came over as someone with a real weight on his shoulders but with a genuine sense of commitment to see the country through its difficult times. Occasionally he went almost into a public speech mode even though these were private conversations (i.e he declared ‘we are in the midst of a global banking crisis etc…)’ but I still felt he had integrity and he listened to, and cared about, our various concerns.
He also wasn’t alone amidst the ranks of the regional press. During the night we also saw Alistair Darling (who looks far younger than he does on TV), Margaret Beckett, Jacqui Smith and various other senior Labour-ites including the somewhat unmistakeable figure of the ever smiling Hazel Blears.
Just as exciting for me was we had got chatting to a number 10 press officer before GB arrived and she took on us an on exclusive tour of all the state rooms and then (even better) the cabinet room. That was fascinating to think of the decisions (life and death, war and peace etc) that have been made in that room and it was also interesting to see the quirky thing that while every other chair is placed firmly under the desk, tradition demands that the desk the PM sits in is always out and at a specific angle. Curious.
On the way out we managed to get a quick snatched pic with our mobile outside number 10 but as you can see it was so dark and it isn’t a great pic.
Still, I will dine out on on my 'ten out of Number 10' trip for some time!