Hero Worship: MSM Journo Fawns Over Govt Covid Scientist

LEON NEAL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

A Westminster correspondent used an interview with the Deputy Chief Medical Officer of England to show him a T-shirt she had with his name and face on it.

“Jonathan Van-Tam’s amazing similes and metaphors have won him an army of fans in the Covid crisis,” wrote Kate Ferguson, Westminster correspondent for The Sun — Britain’s largest-circulation newspaper — sharing a clip of the exchange on Twitter.

“I showed him my JVT T-shirt, and he revealed he has one too!” she added.

“Love this!” replied Pippa Crerar, political editor at the left-wing tabloid the Daily Mirror, in the comments.

“We totally need to wear them at the next face-to-face presser.”

The somewhat fawning exchange with the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, a government technocrat with a large role in shaping and communicating the Boris Johnson administration’s increasingly draconian lockdown regime, comes not long after “the lobby” — a privileged caste of mainstream journalists with high-level access to the government — had complained that the erosion of their special status while Dominic Cummings was at Number 10 Downing Street would mean the powerful would no longer be held to account.

Cummings, widely regarded as the mastermind behind the Vote Leave campaign during the EU referendum, was noted for his lack of regard for the Westminster establishment and its conventions.

Downing Street increasingly embraced things like livestreamed press conferences over backroom “huddles” with privileged journalists while he was still close to Prime Minister Johnson.

Cummings is now out as Chief Adviser following clashes with Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds, however, and her friend Allegra Stratton — the new White House style press secretary and veteran of the BBC and left-wing Guardian newspaper.

Stratton has pushed a much more conciliatory approach towards the media than Cummings, whose dismissive attitude towards the lobby was pitched as an attack on press freedom if not democracy itself by many of its members.

Some of the responses to Ferguson’s T-shirt clip with Professor Van-Tam from non-journalists were therefore something less than impressed, with several accusing her of pandering.

Members of the public who are lockdown sceptics — and indeed members of the public who are lockdown enthusiasts, but believe the government has implemented its policies poorly or without sufficient rigour — may well question the value in journalists access to high-level government officials and ministers if they are going to use it to gush over them.

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery
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