Boris Johnson has axed plans for White House-style televised press briefings despite spending £2.6million of taxpayer money on the briefing room.
The Prime Minister had confirmed the proposals for an upgraded Downing Street briefing room last year, suggesting the public had liked having more direct information from ministers during the coronavirus press conferences.
However the plans have since been scrapped and the No 9 briefing room, which was installed with microphones, control desks, cameras and computers, will instead be used by the PM, ministers and officials.
The U-turn comes after it was revealed that Prime Minster’s press secretary and former ITV presenter Allegra Stratton, would be leading the televised briefings.
Boris Johnson has axed plans for a White House-style televised press briefings despite investing £2.6million
Downing Street’s new White-House style media briefing room was installed with microphones, control desks, cameras and computers
In a nod to the White House, a podium was placed at the head of the room complete with an official Downing Street lectern in front of four Union Jack flags
Ms Stratton had quit ITV News to join Mr Sunak’s increasingly powerful Treasury operation at the end of last year.
The Cambridge University graduate, who is married to James Forsyth, the political editor of The Spectator, had been the favourite since No 10 said that it would be introducing the afternoon TV briefings as part of a bid to communicate more directly with voters.
Mr Johnson has also declared himself to be ‘impressed’ by Ms Stratton, and recently invited her to join him at Chequers.
The televised briefings were said to be the brainchild of Boris Johnson’s former adviser Lee Cain and were expected to run in a similar way to White House press briefings with Ms Stratton answering questions on behalf of the Prime Minister and government.
However the latest move will now leave an uncertain future for the wood-panelled briefing room, which was renovated by the Russian firm Megahertz.
Last year, Mr Johnson said the White House-style televised press briefings would allow the nation to have a ‘more direct, detailed information from the Government about what is going on’.
He told LBC: ‘People have liked a more direct, detailed information from the Government about what is going on – and I think that they’ve actually particularly liked our brilliant scientific and medical advisers, possibly more than the politicians to be frank.
Mr Johnson said the White House-style televised press briefings would allow the nation to have a ‘more direct, detailed information from the Government about what is going on
Last year it was revealed ITV presenter Allegra Stratton would be leading the televised briefings
It was revealed that the government spent £2.6 million on renovations to make the room ready for the briefings
‘We do think that people want direct engagement and want stuff from us, and so we’re going to have a go at that.’
Photos also revealed the result of the work including a plush new studio and seating for reporters.
In a nod to the White House, a podium was placed at the head of the room complete with an official Downing Street lectern in front of four Union Jack flags.
Megahertz was hired to install microphones, control desks, cameras and computers and is owned by Okno-TV, a Moscow-based company that works closely with state controlled broadcaster Russia Today.
A source told ITV News: ‘A Russian-owned firm has been installing all of the communications equipment in Number 10. Questions need to be asked, the company does big installations for a number of organisations – but this is government.’
The new briefing room appeared to have been inspired by the White House. Pictured: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing
Televised press briefings have long been in existence in the US, allowing journalists to grill the president of the day’s press secretary.
After images of the new briefing room were released, Labour Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, ridiculed its appearance.
She said: ‘Given how much money Boris Johnson has thrown at his latest vanity project, we were expecting something a bit more impressive.
‘This raises serious questions on who is getting rushed-through government contracts.
‘And that’s before we even get to why our nurses are getting a pay cut while the government spends millions on a media briefing room.
‘The fact the government seems to have simply brushed this off with no further transparency or assurances on how they’re spending British taxpayer money is deeply concerning.’