Boris Johnson will today fire the starting gun on the race to become his spokesperson at the government’s new televised press conferences.
The Prime Minister is seeking to hire a surrogate who will ‘communicate with the nation’ on his behalf as part of a radical shake-up of the Number 10 media operation.
Afternoon briefings to journalists will no longer be held behind closed doors but instead be broadcast to the nation in a White House-style format.
The successful applicant will be an ‘experienced broadcaster’ expected to field questions from political reporters on behalf of the government – for which they will earn a six-figure salary.
Several big names have already been floated for the post, including ITV head of politics Amber De Botton and veteran broadcaster Alastair Stewart, but none of the touted runners and riders has thrown their hat into the ring.
Downing Street will invite candidates to apply from this morning via a post on the Conservative Party website, according to the Daily Telegraph, which also reports the job to pay a lucrative £100,000 salary.
The job advert seen by the newspaper states: ‘You will represent the Government and the Prime Minister to an audience of millions on a daily basis, across the main broadcast channels and social media, and have the chance to influence and shape public opinion.’
The move to televised lobby briefings were confirmed earlier this month by Mr Johnson, who is looking to resurrect the media conferences used during the pandemic.
He said: ‘People have liked the more direct, detailed information from the government about what’s going on and I think they have particularly liked our brilliant scientific and medical advisers, possibly more than the politicians to be frank.
‘We do think that people want direct engagement and want stuff from us and so we’re going to have a go at that … I will pop up from time to time, I have no doubt.’
Fronted by ministers, often flanked by health experts, the live daily Downing Street conferences were a staple of the coronavirus crisis and watched by millions.
Viewing figures steadily began to sag as the UK past the peak of the virus, and the government now only holds them when necessary.
But Mr Johnson is keen to carry them forward and is hiring a spokesperson to be the face of future government briefings.
Number 10 is believed to want to appoint a woman, although a large pool of runners and riders have been tipped.
It includes Rishi Sunak’s communications chief and former ITV journalist Allegra Stratton, BBC chief political correspondent Vicki Young and the BBC’s forensic interviewer Andrew Neil, although none has publicly expressed interest.
LBC broadcaster Iain Dale, who chaired the round of Conservative Party leadership hustings last year, has ruled himself out.
Former This Morning host Richard Madley had also been touted, but speculation was met with scepticism by a government spokesperson earlier this month.
The successful candidate will undergo security vetting and report to Number 10’s director of communications, Lee Cain.
The briefings will be televised from Number 9 Downing Street and are pencilled in to start from October.
Televised press briefings have long been in existence in the US, allowing journalists to grill the president of the day’s press secretary.
However, the move by Downing Street to follow suit could prove controversial, with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown both having toyed with the idea before deciding not to go ahead with it.
While some will welcome it as potentially good for transparency critics will be concerned that time constraints could lead to questions being curtailed.