Below is the Editor Ben Fishwick's letter to Downing Street after an Echo reporter was barred from Rishi Sunak's visit to Southampton

No 10 praises Echo for holding politicians to account - then avoids questions

Dear No 10 Press Office, I am writing to express concerns about the lack of local media access to the visit to Southampton today by the Prime Minister.

The Southern Daily Echo has been serving our readers for more than 130 years and is the trusted news brand in Rishi Sunak's home city.

We learnt of his visit in the national press this morning, having not received an invite or any prior notice.

I sent a reporter to Weston Lane Surgery as soon as we knew this is where the visit would be taking place. No-one in your team allowed him access to interview the PM or even inside the building.

We are now picking up what Mr Sunak said second hand, without having had the opportunity to put our readers' questions and concerns to the Prime Minister.

All of this flies in the face of the Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer's words at the Downing Street Local Media Champions reception I was kindly invited to on April 19 when she said: "Local journalism helps local areas stay connected, generates local pride and keeps communities engaged in local issues. Local journalists capture the heart of our communities and make sure politicians are doing their jobs better by holding them to account."

Daily Echo: Ben Fishwick at the Downing Street reception for Local Media ChampionsBen Fishwick at the Downing Street reception for Local Media Champions (Image: Downing Street)

I cannot understand why there was no facility for our reporter to ask a question, or for you to have given us prior notice. I note that while Prime Minister last year Boris Johnson agreed to a sit-down interview with the Echo at Southampton Airport.

The visit is now over, and I understand there is no opportunity for this to be rectified today.

Given Mr Sunak's important links to Southampton and the community here, will he agree to an interview with one of my reporters about the big issues facing my readers in Southampton?

The lack of NHS dental care, many families in poverty, the levels of violence against women and girls, vulnerable children struggling to attain standards in reading, writing and maths - these are all issues that matter to people here, in the city where he grew up but we were not able to ask him about these serious problems.

I look forward to your response in due course detailing the reasons why our reporter was barred from this visit - beyond being told of security reasons and that it's standard practice.

My colleagues will be in touch with specific questions about the pharmacy announcement.

I have copied in Lucy Frazer and Royston Smith MP so they are both aware of this incident.


Ben Fishwick

Southern Daily Echo