Pippa Crerar on Partygate scoops, Sunak and leaving the Mirror

Newly-crowned journalist of the year Pippa Crerar has said it was Boris Johnson, not she or any of the other reporters who broke Partygate stories, that brought down his government.

She added that new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has “nothing to fear from me” if he delivers on his promises and is transparent and accountable.

Crerar won Women in Journalism’s Woman of the Year and the Political Journalism and Journalist of the Year prizes at the 11th British Journalism Awards on Thursday night.

Accepting the latter award to a standing ovation, Crerar told the audience at London’s Hilton Park Lane: “This has been an incredible year for British political journalism.

“There are a lot of political journalists in this room that have been nominated. Some have won awards, some haven’t. But I’m very conscious that there has been a huge number of stories – there’s been a huge lot going on in British politics, frankly, [and] it looks like the government’s going to continue helping us out on that front for a wee bit longer.

“But I also think this has to be for all of you as well.”

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[In full: British Journalism Awards winners 2022]

Crerar also dedicated the award to “the Daily Mirror, and the inspirational editor of the Daily Mirror, Alison Phillips, and all the team there”.

Crerar broke her spree of Partygate scoops as well as the 2020 Dominic Cummings scandal while at the Mirror, but this summer moved to The Guardian, where she had previously worked, to be its political editor.

Speaking to Press Gazette after her win, Crerar said she is “loving” being back at The Guardian.

“They’ve been incredibly supportive. I mean, it’s helped by the fact that there’s been a huge amount going on in British politics. My one concern was that I’d leave the Mirror and nothing would happen, and what would I have to write about!

“And yet – Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have gifted us stories over the last three months. Not necessarily so good for the country, but journalistically, it’s been incredible.

“So I’ve been very, very busy – I’m actually looking forward to a few days off over Christmas, just collapsing in a heap at home with the kids and the dog and my husband, and not doing very much at all. Eating a few Quality Street, watching some telly, that’s gonna be my day.”

Crerar said the Mirror will “always have a piece of my heart, definitely.”

“Alison Phillips and [deputy editor] Tom Carlin and the team are incredible, inspirational leaders,” she said. “The Mirror doesn’t have the resources of some other media organisations, yet they have sort of a tenacity and a heart that I think has seen them do incredible things over the last few years.

“They gave me the freedom and the support – and that really counts for a lot. These sort of stories that I wanted to do – the Dominic Cummings story, then obviously Partygate, lots of others as well. But actually having an editor’s backing makes all the difference, not just about whether your story is on the front page or not, it’s about whether the story is published or not. 

“And Alison always – it always felt like she has my back.”

Crerar downplayed suggestions she was instrumental in the fall of the Johnson administration.

“Politicians are the masters of their own fates, you know. People often say to me ‘You brought Boris Johnson down’, and I’m like – no! He brought himself down!

“Look, I think we’re in this place where there are political cycles in this country. And I think it’s quite clear to everyone that we’re reaching the end of this particular political cycle.

“Now, the Labour Party, they obviously don’t want to be complacent about winning the next election, but it does feel like the Conservatives are reaching the end of their time in power…

“I think it’s important, at whatever stage a party is at in its decline or ascendancy, to hold them to account. And I’ll be doing it for Labour as well. I think it’s really important, as they present themselves as a party of government, to challenge them on that and to make sure that they are really up to the job.”

Crerar said she hadn’t spoken to Boris Johnson since he was dethroned.

“But I did see Rishi Sunak last week. And I think he spoke to me for about 30 seconds before very quickly finding someone else to talk to about the World Cup.

“I don’t think he was too keen to speak to me too much. Which is a shame actually, because I’m there to hold them accountable, ultimately. And if he is doing a good job as prime minister and delivering and living up to his promises and being transparent, then he’s got nothing to fear from me.”

Asked whether she was jealous of any of her rivals’ scoops in the past year, Crerar said: “I am hugely, hugely impressed and proud of Paul Brand. I think that his work is consistently excellent for ITV. He obviously broke a lot of Partygate stories himself, from the Allegra Stratton video onwards.

“And people will often ask us, were we collaborating? And no, we weren’t. I mean, we didn’t share sources or stories. What we did share was support. And actually, having a colleague like that in another organisation – for a story which actually was quite a lonely path at times – was incredible.

“I think he’s a brilliant journalist. And I always love seeing the stories hearing he breaks. As I said on the stage, it’s been an incredible year for political journalism and there’s been stories across the board.

“I mean, Noa Hoffman on day two in her job at The Sun, bringing in the Chris Pincher story. Gabriel Pogrund, week after week in the Sunday Times, not just the Prince Charles story, but subsequently as well. And Steve Swinford, who is kind of like the Oracle for what the government is thinking day to day.

“There’s incredible journalists out there, and I think actually looking at them, or looking at the guest list tonight, makes you feel proud to be in British journalism. There is a huge talent out there at the moment. And it really feels that British journalism is in a good place.”

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