Author: Joe Watts
The move to announce the country’s new post-Brexit immigration plans has been branded “shambolic” by Conservative MPs amid claims of a Tory turf war between Downing Street, the Home Office and rival newspapers.
A story breaking news of what would be in home secretary Sajid Javid’s speech at the Conservative conference was published by one news outlet on Monday evening, only to be followed by a similar article in a separate outlet, this time with both Theresa May and her minister making the announcement.
A press release was then later sent out from Conservative headquarters stating only that the prime minister was unveiling the new policy, which will be critical to Britain’s future.
The row comes as Downing Street has been pushing ministers and MPs for unity, in the face of a concerted effort from Boris Johnson – due to give a speech to members on Tuesday – to attack Ms May’s Brexit plans and cast himself as her successor.
After seeing the differing immigration stories breaking, one MP told The Independent: “It just looks a bit silly and shambolic.
“As if Theresa was worried about Boris’s speech and felt she had to have her name on the big policy.”
The row began to emerge at 9.30pm on Monday night at the annual Tory event, as delegates, journalists and politicians were retreating to the bars and restaurants of Birmingham to socialise.
The Sun broke a story confirming Mr Javid would unveil the new post-Brexit immigration policy, with some apparently exclusive quotes from the minister.
However, Mr Javid had already done an interview setting out the government’s approach with the Daily Mail, which was supposed to be the newspaper’s exclusive front-page story for Tuesday.
But when the Mail’s front page was eventually published soon after 10pm it had both Mr Javid and Ms May making the announcement together, an unusual way to open a story.
Then at 10.40pm Conservative headquarters sent out a press release crediting the policy to Ms May, with a headline in capital letters “Prime Minister Unveils Post Brexit Immigration Plans”.
The embargo on the story – the time at which news outlets are allowed to publish it – was listed at a time 10 minutes before the press release was sent out, suggesting there had been some confusion in the matter.
A source in the leader’s office said that the press release setting out her immigration policy had been sent out simply to be helpful to other members of the media.