Reporting in Westminster

In October 2011, I joined the Press Association’s Westminster team, fulfilling my long-held ambition to cover politics from the heart of the action.

My main job is on the gallery team, covering events in the House of Commons – attending questions, reporting on debates and covering statements from ministers. The job is to find stories amid the proceedings – especially on the days when the political bandwagon is elsewhere. The results are available daily on PA’s Parliamentary wire by searching for my byline.

Alongside work in the gallery, I often work with the lobby team – covering visits, carrying out interviews and digging stories out of reports. I worked on the 2012 conference season for PA, reporting from Manchester during the Labour event and working out of Westminster during the Liberal Democrat and Conservative conferences.

My wire copy has been picked up by national and regional newspapers throughout my time with PA, including making the front page of The Scotsman, with my report of the pasty tax u-turn, and the Western Mail, who used a story about Bob Diamond. More still is used by reporters in their own stories covering the events of the day.

In examples available online from the past couple of months, the Independent picked up my story on George Osborne’s surprise announcement of Mark Carney as the new Bank of England Governor, while the Irish Independent used my recent PMQs story about David Cameron’s comments on rioting in Belfast. The Scotsman ran my story about the possibility of relocating the Commons.

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Covering Aberdeen City Council

Since joining the Evening Express as a political reporter in June 2010, I’ve dived straight into covering Aberdeen City Council. It’s been a hectic 10 months at a time when the whole of the public sector faces reducing budgets and politicians of all stripes seem ever more unpopular.

There have been running stories about cuts, especially since the change of Government in Westminster.

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General Election 2010

The 2010 General Election was my first as a professional journalist. I covered campaigns and candidates in four seats, with the main focus on two constituencies – Scunthorpe and Brigg and Goole. During the course of the campaign, I interviewed leading figures including Ed Miliband and Damian Green, wrote features and covered issues. Among the ideas I pursued was a young voters panel and an interview with Political Betting editor Mike Smithson about the prospects of different results in the area.

On election night, I covered the counts for Scunthorpe and Brigg and Goole  from the Ancholme Leisure Centre. Through the night, I held an online CoverItLive chat with readers from the floor of the count, interviewed the candidates, reported on Twitter and filed stories to the Scunthorpe Telegraph website. Once the results were in, I filed copy for a special region-wide supplement published alongside the Scunthorpe Telegraph, Grimsby Telegraph and Lincolnshire Echo on May 7.

And as the General Election got underway, the Elliot Morley expenses story continued to develop. As Parliament was dissolved, Mr Morley retired as an MP after a turbulent 12 months and court proceedings edged onwards with an announcement on legal aid.

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Local government reporting

Since starting with the Scunthorpe Telegraph, I have been given the chance to pursue one of my passions in journalism, covering and scrutinising politics. Here, that mostly means North Lincolnshire Council.

Two major projects are edging closer to reality in North Lincolnshire – the ambitious Lincolnshire Lakes scheme and a massive waste processing contract. I’ve gone behind the scenes on both projects to write backgrounders – and found two exclusive splashes.

Recently, I’ve covered the 2010/11 budget for North Lincolnshire Council, uncovered an interesting story about proposals to negotiate with travel firms to cut school truancy and reported on potential problems with a major infrastructure project in the region.

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News stories of 2010

With the new year has come some brilliant stories, hopefully setting the trend for the rest of 2010. It’s been very busy and this is just a sample of my work.

Probably the most tragic story of the year came to a head in early April as the funerals of Nick Smith and Louis Wainright took place in Scunthorpe. The teenagers died after a night out in the town and, as has been widely reported, their deaths have been linked with the then “legal high” of Mephedrone. I covered Nick’s funeral on April 1 in print and online.

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Elliot Morley part three: Charges

The Elliot Morley expenses story, which I have covered from the beginning, continues to rumble on. The Scunthorpe MP was charged with multiple counts of false accounting, which he denies, and I reported the story in depth. Later, Mr Morley made extraordinary comments to me about the suspension of his ‘golden goodbye’ went against the rules of “natural justice”. This story went national and was picked up by the Daily Telegraph, Daily MailThe Independent and others.

Meanwhile, the campaign is up and running in Scunthorpe. We’ve had some fun with Ladbrokes seat-by-seat odds while waiting for the election to be called. I’ve lots of ideas for covering my first campaign as a professional journalist and plenty of them will appear here in the next few months.

To read my earlier coverage of the Elliot Morley story, see my first post here and my second post here.

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After the expenses, before the election

The Elliot Morley expenses story has been the biggest of my time at the Scunthorpe Telegraph. I’ve covered it in depth since it broke in May and you can read the bulk of my copy on this post from 2009. Two of the biggest stories are also attached below.

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The story has moved on quickly in the past few weeks. Nic Dakin was selected as the Labour candidate from a long list of 32 people from across the country. I’ve covered the selection process in depth since it got underway in September.

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The selection of Mr Dakin also means Scunthorpe now has its three main candidates in place. As part of my build-up to the General Election, I produced a Question Time style feature over three days to test the views of Mr Dakin, Conservative Caroline Johnson and Liberal Democrat Neil Poole.

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In late 2009 Mr Morley returned to the headlines at the heart of speculation he could face charges over his expense claims. The MP declined to confirm he was facing possible prosecution but denied reports lawyers were working to avoid CPS action through Parliamentary Privilege. Meanwhile, as 2010 dawned, the three main candidates fighting for votes in Scunthorpe got their campaigns running in earnest.

As we move closer to the election, I hope to look at the other seats in North Lincolnshire and go further in questioning the candidates for Scunthorpe – a seat which I think could be one of the most fascinating in the country given the context behind the Labour Party selection process.

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