Boris Johnson starts search for ‘£100,000 per year’ spokesperson to front White House-style televised briefings

Successful candidate will represent PM to ‘an audience of millions on a daily basis, across the main broadcast channels and social media’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 29 July 2020 16:39 BST
Mr Johnson said he would appear at the podium on occasions
Mr Johnson said he would appear at the podium on occasions (EPA)

The Conservatives have started searching for a new £100,000-a-year spokesperson for Boris Johnson to front White House-style press briefings televised to the country.

The prime minister revealed earlier this month the government was going to “have a go” at the live briefings following the public interest in No 10’s daily coronavirus press conferences, which took place during the first months of the pandemic.

“People have liked a more direct, detailed information from the government about what is going on,” he said. “And I think that they’ve actually particularly liked out brilliant scientists and medical advisers, possibly more than the politicians to be frank.”

Mr Johnson, who said he would appear at the podium on occasions, added: “We do think that people want direct engagement and want stuff from us, and so we’re going to have a go at that.”

The advertisement for the vacancy, posted on the Conservatives’ LinkedIn page on Tuesday evening, describes the “unique opportunity” to work at the heart of government and “communicate with the nation on behalf of the prime minister” from the autumn. The role will not be appointed by the civil service so that the spokesperson can address questions of a political nature, including Labour Party policy.

The successful candidate will represent the government and Mr Johnson to “an audience of millions on a daily basis, across the main broadcast channels and social media, and to have the chance to influence and shape public opinion”, it added.

Applicants for the job are required to email their CVs “and a statement of suitability” to No 10’s director of communications Lee Cain by the middle of August and undergo security clearance.

It says hopefuls would need to be “an experienced and confident media operator who would enjoy working on camera with senior ministers, political advisers, officials and journalists; who would relish the challenge and pace of televised briefings, and who has a strong grasp of foreign and domestic policy issues”.

“The successful candidate will become a trusted political adviser to the prime minister and member of the senior team at Downing Street, reporting into the prime minister’s director of communications,” the adverts adds.

While the job advert states that salary will be “determined based on experience”, The Daily Telegraph reported the role will come with a £100,000 per year pay packet.

Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders answers questions from reporters (Reuters) (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

At the time, Labour MP Chris Bryant criticised the proposals, saying: “I don’t like this idea of televised daily press briefings from Downing Street. We’re a parliamentary democracy, we have a prime minister not a president. So announcements should be in and to parliament.”

It is expected the daily, off-camera briefing from the prime minister’s official spokesperson, who is a civil servant, will continue alongside the new White House-style press conference hosted at Downing Street.

For many years the White House has held similar briefings fronted by the administration’s press secretary and US presidents have often made appearances at them. Kayleigh McEnany is the fourth person to hold the role since Donald Trump entered the Oval Office in 2016, her predecessors being Stephanie Grisham, Sarah Sanders and Sean Spicer.

Ms Sanders, who left the role last year, once displayed her loyalties to Mr Trump, telling a religious television network that God “wanted Donald Trump to become president”.

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