After £2.6m spent...

White House-style press briefings scrapped

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson’s plan was heavily criticised

Downing Street has scrapped plans to deliver White House-style press conferences despite spending £2.6m to host them.

The plan to hold televised press conferences, similar to those broadcast in Washington, was announced by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson last July.

But he was criticised for lavishing cash on the new facilities at 9 Downing Street, which will now be used by him and his officials.

The PM’s media chief Allegra Stratton – who had been due to front the briefings – will instead become the spokeswoman for the COP26 climate summit.

Labour attacked the press room investment as a “vanity project” which threatened to “unbalance” British politics, and the party’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said the opposition should be given a right of reply.

After it was confirmed the plan was being abandoned, Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner said: “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.”

Mr Johnson used the room to host a Covid press conference earlier on Tuesday.

He said the daily televised coronavirus briefings being held at the time showed the public wanted “more direct, detailed information from the government”.

The total cost of the refit of the briefing room was revealed by a Freedom of Information request from the Press Association – £2,607,767.67, largely excluding VAT.

Costs included £1,848,695 for the “main works”, £198,024 on “long lead items”, and £33,395 on broadband equipment.

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