UK Politics

UK government plans to hold daily White House-style televised press briefings

Handout photo issued by 10 Downing Street of Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Boris Johnson introduced daily briefings in March for updates on the coronavirus pandemic

The UK government is planning to introduce daily televised press briefings later this year.

The new format, similar to that used by the White House in the United States, is expected to come in by October.

Boris Johnson told LBC Radio the recent daily televised coronavirus briefings showed the public wanted more "direct engagement" with decision-makers.

It is understood an experienced broadcaster will be recruited to host the question-and-answer sessions.

Asked whether we would himself appear every day, the PM said this was "not the plan" but he would be "popping up from time to time".

Currently, political journalists are able to question the prime minister's official spokesperson - who is a civil servant - off camera every day.

These briefings are on the record, meaning they can be quoted and attributed to the spokesperson. Under the changes, the briefings will be on camera.

A government spokesman said work would begin shortly on adapting 9 Downing Street, which will be used for the briefings. In recent years, this building has been used by the chief whip and the Brexit secretary.

Nobody has been recruited yet to host the briefings and asked about reports that former This Morning host Richard Madeley was being considered, the spokesman said that was "news to me".

For several months during the coronavirus pandemic, the government held daily briefings from No 10 every day.

They started on 16 March, following criticism of a lack of transparency over government plans to stem the spread of the virus. They were led by a senior minister - sometimes Boris Johnson - and normally accompanied by scientific and medical experts.

Daily press conferences ended on 23 June., although ad hoc briefings are still taking place.

For many years, the White House held an on-camera daily press briefing every day, delivered by the administration's press secretary.

Under US President Donald Trump, the briefings were stopped for more than a year. In May 2020, new US Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany held a briefing - the first one in 459 days.

The US daily press briefings were first televised in 1995, under then President Bill Clinton, according to the White House Historical Association. The White House has its own press briefing room.

Labour MP Chris Bryant said he was not a fan of the idea in the UK, saying it would divert attention away from Parliament, to whom ministers were accountable.

And the FDA union, which represents civil servants, said it was concerned by reports of a planned cull of press officers in individual departments in favour of more centralised communications strategy.

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