Authorities abandons White Home-style TV briefings – after £2.6m spend on new studio

Boris Johnson Pic: Simon Dawson/10 Downing Street

2021-04-21 00:14:00

It was an concept that was ridiculed from the beginning. And now Downing Avenue has confirmed that plans for White Home-style information conferences have been ditched.

Quantity 10 press secretary Allegra Stratton, the previous Guardian and TV journalist employed to entrance the on-camera briefings, is to as an alternative turn into spokeswoman for the COP-26 local weather change summit.

And the brand new custom-built media suite given a £2.6m makeover for Ms Stratton’s briefings will now be used for information conferences by the prime minister and different senior ministers.

Opposition MPs have already stepped up their claims that the costly refurbishment of the room, in 9 Downing Avenue, was a waste of taxpayers’ cash on a conceit undertaking by Boris Johnson.

Allegra Stratton, the face of Downing Street's new daily televised press briefings, enters 10 Downing Street, London, the day after Lee Cain announced he is resigning as Downing Street's director of communications and will leave the post at the end of the year.
Former journalist Allegra Stratton had been employed to entrance the briefings – however will now deal with the COP-26 summit

Labour’s deputy chief Angela Rayner stated: “Boris Johnson is clearly working afraid of scrutiny and questions on Tory sleaze and dodgy lobbying.

“As a substitute of losing tens of millions of kilos of taxpayers’ cash on a pointless self-importance undertaking the prime minister ought to have used the cash to offer our NHS heroes a pay rise.”

And veteran Labour ex-minister John Spellar tweeted of Ms Stratton: “She did not final lengthy, then. Descending into an actual Whitehall farce.”

Saying the U-turn and her new job, Ms Stratton – who’s paid £125,000 per 12 months – stated in an announcement issued by Quantity 10: “I’m delighted to be beginning on this new position.

“The COP-26 local weather convention is a novel alternative to ship a cleaner, greener world and I am wanting ahead to working with the prime minister and Alok Sharma to make sure it’s a success.”

When the brand new submit of press secretary was marketed final July, to some it should have sounded just like the job alternative of a lifetime, however to others it was at all times prone to be a poisoned chalice.

The memoirs of Sir Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher’s legendary press spokesman, had been known as “Kill The Messenger” and that destiny certainly awaited Ms Stratton had the briefings gone forward.

Instantly after they had been proposed, the White Home-style information conferences had been denounced not solely by Sir Bernard, but additionally by Home of Commons’ Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

“Statements ought to be made to the Home first,” stated Sir Lindsay. “As soon as you’ve got made that assertion, by all means go and have a press convention. However do it after, not earlier than.”

Sir Bernard blamed “the malevolent presence of Dominic Cummings”, the PM’s “weirdo” adviser, and stated the brand new submit of Downing Avenue TV spokesperson was “a constitutional outrage”.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: Downing Street former special advisor Dominic Cummings (L) and Director of Communications Lee Cain (R) attend British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's press conference at the NATO summit at the Grove hotel on December 4, 2019 in Watford, England. France and the UK signed the Treaty of Dunkirk in 1947 in the aftermath of WW2 cementing a mutual alliance in the event of an attack by Germany or the Soviet Union. The Benelux countries joined the Treaty and in April 1949 expanded further to include North America and Canada followed by Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. This new military alliance became the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). The organisation grew with Greece and Turkey becoming members and a re-armed West Germany was permitted in 1955. This encouraged the creation of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact delineating the two sides of the Cold War. This year marks the 70th anniversary of NATO. (Photo by Adrian Dennis - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The White Home-style briefings had been backed by Dominic Cummings’ ally Lee Cain (proper) earlier than the pair left Quantity 10

The concept stemmed from the day by day coronavirus information conferences which made family names out of Professor Chris Whitty, Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, which attracted massive TV audiences and had been judged successful by Downing Avenue.

However there was additionally a wider Downing Avenue agenda. Mr Cummings wished to smash the so-called “Foyer system” favoured by Sir Bernard and seize management of the day by day briefings for political journalists.

The on-camera briefings had been additionally enthusiastically backed by the previous Downing Avenue director of communications, Lee Cain, who beforehand dressed up because the “Mirror hen” through the 2010 election marketing campaign and taunted ex-Tory chief David Cameron.

However Mr Cummings and Mr Cain had been each ousted final November in a Downing Avenue coup stated to have been masterminded by Mr Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds, a former Conservative Social gathering media chief and Whitehall particular adviser.

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It’s claimed Ms Symonds persuaded the prime minister to rent Ms Stratton for the brand new position and the 2 ladies had been stated to have fashioned a strong alliance that led to the demise of Mr Cummings and Mr Cain.

Mr Cain was changed as director of communications by James Slack, a former Every day Mail political editor, who had been the prime minister’s official spokesman for each Theresa Might and Mr Johnson.

He’s understood to have been cool on the thought of on-camera White Home-style briefings, which is considered one cause why he give up Quantity 10 to turn into deputy editor of the Solar earlier this 12 months.

Mr Slack’s successor, one other former Every day Mail political journalist, Jack Doyle, was solely appointed final Friday and the axing of the briefings – doomed from the beginning, in accordance with many – got here solely days after his appointment.

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