Downing Street scraps plans for White House-style press conferences

21 April 2021, 00:36 | Updated: 21 April 2021, 01:22

Boris Johnson has scrapped plans for White House-style press conferences
Boris Johnson has scrapped plans for White House-style press conferences. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Downing Street has ditched plans for White House-style press conferences despite spending more than £2.6 million to host them.

A media room, where Boris Johnson's press secretary Allegra Stratton was due to field questions from journalists, was built in No 9 Downing Street and kitted out with cameras and rows of chairs.

Last month it was revealed that it had cost £2.6 million to install, with the hi-tech refurbishment branded a "vanity project" by Labour.

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But it is understood the Prime Minister has now axed plans for daily televised media briefings and the studio will be used for ministerial press conferences, as first reported by The Times.

Mr Johnson has appointed Ms Stratton as spokeswoman for the United Nations Cop26 summit, which is due to take place in Glasgow in November.

The room had its first use in March when the Prime Minister addressed the nation about the next stage of lockdown easing, with previous coronavirus briefings held in No 10.

The PM has appointed Allegra Stratton as spokeswoman for the United Nations Cop26 summit
The PM has appointed Allegra Stratton as spokeswoman for the United Nations Cop26 summit. Picture: PA

Responding to the plans being scrapped, Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner said: "Boris Johnson is clearly running scared of scrutiny and questions about Tory sleaze and dodgy lobbying.

"Instead of wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on a pointless vanity project the Prime Minister should have used the money to give our NHS heroes a pay rise."

A freedom of information (FoI) request revealed that the overhaul of No 9 had cost £2,607,767.67, largely excluding VAT.

Costs detailed in the FoI response included £1,848,695.12 for the "main works", £198,023.75 on "long lead items", and £33,394.63 on broadband equipment.

The launch of the televised briefings had been anticipated as early as the autumn, but in January No 10 said they were being delayed as ministers planned to hold regular press conferences during the lockdown.

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