Downing Street scraps plans for White House-style press briefings

Downing Street scraps plans for White House-style press briefings thumbnail
image captionAllegra Stratton is to become spokeswoman for COP26

Downing Street has scrapped plans to launch White House-style press conferences.

The prime minister’s media chief Allegra Stratton – who had been due to front the briefings – has confirmed the move to the BBC.

Ms Stratton is to become spokeswoman for the COP26 climate summit instead.

The government was criticised for spending £2.6m on new facilities to host the briefings, which will now be used by the PM and officials.

Mr Johnson used the room to host a Covid press conference earlier on Tuesday.

The plan to hold televised press conferences, similar to those seen in the United States, was announced by Mr Johnson in July last year.

He said the daily televised coronavirus briefings being held at the time showed the public wanted “more direct, detailed information from the government”.

But Labour attacked it as a “vanity project” which threatened to “unbalance” British politics.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his party should be given a right of reply.

image copyrightReuters

image captionThe briefing room at 9 Downing Street cost £2.6m to refit

The briefings fronted by Ms Stratton has been due to start in October last year but the government said they had been delayed because ministers were continuing to hold coronavirus briefings.

Ms Stratton has been given the job of the government’s spokeswoman for COP26, a UN climate change conference due to take place in November in Glasgow, chaired by former business secretary Alok Sharma.

She said: “I am delighted to be starting this new role.

“The COP26 climate conference is a unique opportunity to deliver a cleaner, greener world and I’m looking forward to working with the prime minister and Alok Sharma to ensure it is a success.”

The total cost of the refit of the briefing room at 9 Downing Street was revealed by a Freedom of Information request from the Press Association at £2,607,767.67, largely excluding VAT.

Costs included £1,848,695 for the “main works”, £198,024 on “long lead items”, and £33,395 on broadband equipment.

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