UK Politics

Chris Moncrieff: Veteran PA political reporter dies aged 88

Chris Moncrieff Image copyright PA Media

Chris Moncrieff, a political reporter who covered Westminster for more than 50 years for the Press Association (PA) agency, has died aged 88.

The journalist, who continued to file stories after officially retiring in 1994, was described by PA's editor-in-chief Pete Clifton as a "legend".

In 2007, the House of Commons press bar was renamed in Mr Moncrieff's honour.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair once described him as "the only journalist who mattered".

Speaking on Friday, Mr Blair said Mr Moncrieff was "charming, polite and great fun".

He added: "He was the man, the doyen of the lobby, the last of the extraordinary journalists who would work their socks off getting away the latest copy in the days before the internet and social media took over."

Born in Derby, Mr Moncrieff began his career on the Harrogate Herald, before working for the Coventry Evening Telegraph and Nottingham Evening Post.

He joined PA's parliamentary staff in 1962, becoming a lobby reporter in 1973.

Mr Moncrieff, who had four children with his late wife, Margaret, was made the PA's chief political correspondent in 1980, and was later promoted to political editor.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Moncrieff (left) at PA's Fleet St offices in 1987

House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who first met Mr Moncrieff in 1997 when he was elected to Parliament, said: "Chris was the last of the great old journalists, the old school that everybody respected.

"He was Parliament through and through, and the democratic system was a thread throughout his body. He will be missed by us all - journalists and parliamentarians alike."

Mr Clifton said: "Moncrieff was the ultimate news agency journalist - great contacts, always close to the action, working some epic hours and obsessed by getting stories out before everyone else. On the rare occasion he took a holiday, we could expect him to file news stories he'd picked up on the promenade.

"Legend gets overused, but there's no doubt Moncrieff was a PA legend and a remarkable political reporter. We are profoundly sad today, but cheered by the many stories of Moncrieff we can share."

Former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine described him as being "like a jack-in-the-box".

He added: "He was the most assiduous professional, the phrase 'never off the job' was invented for Chris. He was hugely diligent and enormously ever-present.

"He always gave the impression of being sympathetic to what you were saying - and he must have listened to both great statesmen and absolute scoundrels."

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Chris Moncrieff, pictured with wife Margaret, was appointed a CBE in the 1989 New Year's Honours

Former PA chief parliamentary reporter Jackie Storer described Mr Moncrieff as a "wonderful friend".

She said: "I was in awe of Chris when I joined the Press Association in 1998, but he quickly dispensed with any hero worship by regularly getting in the teas.

"His 'war stories' were legendary - but so was his kindness. I will never forget how he jumped on a train to Eastbourne to give the most amusing and informative talk to my Dad's Air Crew Association gathering - and how supportive he was years later, when my father died."

Philip Webster, former political editor of the Times, said: "He was the most enthusiastic and fastest operator any of us worked with. His business was words.

"Within seconds of grabbing a quote from a backbencher, minister, prime minister he was on the phone breathlessly dictating copy, always well served by his impeccable scrawling shorthand.

"Amiable and funny, no politician would deny Chris his demand for words, as he was their gateway to the nation. A great man and great journalist."

Members of the press lobby have also paid tribute to Mr Moncrieff: