United Kingdom

Johnson moves to White House-style press briefings

Agence France-Presse
Johnson moves to White House-style press briefings

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks alongside Britain's Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance (R) and Britain's Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty (L) at a remote press conference to update the nation on the covid-19 pandemic, inside 10 Downing Street in central London on September 30, 2020, the 100th coronavirus briefing since the pandemic hit the UK. - New restrictions are being introduced as infection rates rise again, with some 16 million people now subject to some kind of localised rules across the UK, including bans on meeting other families. (Photo by Jack Hill / POOL / AFP)


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appoints veteran journalist Allegra Stratton to host daily briefings

Boris Johnson has appointed a veteran political journalist to host daily White House-style television briefings, media reports said Friday, October 9, in a shake-up of the British premier’s media operation.

Allegra Stratton, a Cambridge University graduate who has worked for the BBC, The Guardian newspaper and ITV television, left journalism in April to head communications for finance minister Rishi Sunak.

She has now been poached by Downing Street and is expected to field reporters’ questions on camera at new afternoon briefings, under a system Johnson hopes will allow more “direct engagement” with the public.

At the height of the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year, the government held daily televised press conferences, usually with a scientist and a minister. 

“People have liked the more direct, detailed information from the government about what’s going on,” Johnson told LBC radio in July.

“We do think that people want direct engagement and want stuff from us and so we’re going to have a go at that,” he said, adding that he might “pop up from time to time.”

The Conservative leader and his team have had a tricky relationship with the media since he took office.

Earlier this year, the twice-daily briefings with accredited parliamentary journalists – known as “the lobby” – were moved from the House of Commons to Downing Street, sparking concern about access.

Despite insisting on the need for greater transparency, some lobby journalists were then excluded from a briefing on Brexit, causing their colleagues to walk out in protest.

Johnson has also taken to using his own personal photographer to chronicle key moments, breaking a long-standing tradition of bringing in someone from an independent media organization.

For many months ministers also refused to appear on the BBC’s flagship Today radio program, which has more than 7 million listeners.

The prime minister’s official spokesman, a technically neutral civil servant, is expected to keep briefing the lobby every morning as usual, on the record but off camera.

Stratton, who will be a political adviser, will take over the afternoon briefings on camera from a new media suite reportedly set up at Number 9 Downing Street, next door to Johnson’s office.

The 39-year-old is well regarded in Westminster – and well-connected. 

She is married to James Forsyth, the political editor of The Spectator magazine, which Johnson used to edit, and Sunak was best man at their wedding.

“Those who have worked alongside her attest to the presence of the qualities that her new role as press secretary will demand – an unflappability, sharp intellect, easy articulacy and quick judgment,” according to a commentary in The Times.

In response to the new briefings, opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer is planning to hold his own monthly press conferences. – Rappler.com

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.