For White House-style press conferences, Lockdown hits No. 10 plans

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No 10 is “looking for the best format.” says Allegra Stratton, who was to direct the briefings.

The shutdown seems to have delayed the plans of Downing Street for regular, televised press conferences with the new press secretary of Boris Johnson, Allegra Stratton, with No 10 reporting that its communications strategy is being reviewed.

In a newly renovated Downing Street studio, the latest White House-style briefings were scheduled to start on Monday.

But in a telephone conference with reporters Wednesday, Stratton said that in view of the changed circumstances, the administration is rethinking its strategy.

“We’re taking a hard look at the best communications for the time we’re in now,” she said. “We have a new strain of coronavirus that’s 50 percent more infectious; the prime minister has taken the steps he’s taken in recent days, and we’re thinking about how we can best support that and get the public health messages across.”

Stratton proposed that further news conferences be held with ministers and public health experts, such as during the lockdown in the spring of 2020. “We’re actively looking for the best format,” she said, adding that an announcement will soon be made about the government’s plans.

The idea of regular television briefings was the brainchild of Johnson’s former senior advisor, Lee Cain, with a high-profile presenter serving as the government’s voice.

But Cain disagreed with Stratton’s choice of Johnson to lead them and ultimately left the government, as did Dominic Cummings, his former Vote Leave colleague.

With a live audience of political journalists who could directly ask Stratton questions, the daily briefings were meant to take place, but the lockout rules mean that it is no longer possible.

Journalists have been asking questions at Johnson’s Downing Street press briefings via video connection since late last March. Previously unknown personalities such as England’s chief medical officer, Prof. Chris Whitty, and his assistant, Jonathan Van-Tam, have made the broadcasts familiar faces to the public.

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