UK government looking for spokesperson to 'communicate with the nation' in US-style briefings

UK government looking for spokesperson to 'communicate with the nation' in US-style briefings

British prime minister Boris Johnson says the new tamrof will give the UK public "more direct" information from government. Picture: PA

Britain's ruling Conservative Party is advertising for a skilled communicator to front newly-televised government media briefings — a job billed as “speaking to the nation” for prime minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson’s government is moving to White House-style on-camera briefings later this year, ending decades of tradition and shining a new light on the sometimes cosy relationship between reporters and ministers.

“This is a unique opportunity to work at the centre of government, and communicate with the nation on behalf of the prime minister,” the job advert on the party’s website states.

“You will speak directly to the public on the issues they care most about, explaining the government’s position, reassuring people that we are taking action on their priorities and driving positive changes.”

Salary for the role would depend on experience, though the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that it could exceed £100,000 (€110,200) — more than most MPs are paid.

It comes after the perceived success of daily news conferences during the coronavirus pandemic.

The move echoes the format in Washington to televise what have been — particularly during president Donald Trump’s administration — sometimes awkward and hostile tussles between reporters and officials.

It marks a shift resisted by successive governments and some sections of the press, and will partially replace twice-daily off-screen meetings between the government and reporters.

Those so-called “lobby” arrangements have evolved from secret briefings in the 1920s to on-the-record meetings in a draughty turret room inside the Palace of Westminster or, most recently, a former court chamber attached to the prime minister’s residence.

Alongside an ability to “remain calm and measured under pressure”, the successful candidate requires “excellent risk management and crisis communications skills”, the advert states.

“Working in the prime minister’s communications team involves working under pressure and to immovable deadlines,” it adds. 

Proposed changes to media breifings will see some press conferences from Number 10 filmed 

Under proposals set out earlier this year, the afternoon sessions will be filmed at 9 Downing Street. Stock picture
Under proposals set out earlier this year, the afternoon sessions will be filmed at 9 Downing Street. Stock picture

Lobby correspondents — the political reporters based in the UK Houses of Parliament — currently have twice-daily briefings with the prime minister's official spokesman or his deputy, who are both civil servants.

The briefings are on the record, meaning they can be quoted and attributed to Number 10, but are not broadcast.

Under proposals set out earlier this year, the afternoon sessions will be filmed at 9 Downing Street, while the morning briefing will continue to be held behind closed doors.

Mr Johnson has suggested the changes will build on the experience of the coronavirus press conferences which gave people "more direct, detailed information from the government".


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