Private Eye journalist Ian Hislop has ridiculed the UK Government’s new press briefing room, describing it as a “metaphor” for the Conservative’s response to the coronavirus pandemic over the past year.
Hislop’s remarks come after ITV News released a first-look image of the new room in No 9, where Downing Street press secretary Allegra Stratton will soon take questions from the media in White House-style briefings.
Speaking on Question Time on Thursday, he said: “It’s a ridiculous amount of money, and it shows this government’s skills with procurement once again.
“2.6 million for a couple of microphones – brilliant. I mean, no wonder Test and Trace cost 37 billion.
“It’s absolutely fatuous, and the idea that the Prime Minister can’t even have a room to make speeches to talk about things unless it’s subsidised by some sort of Russian company with links to RT.”
It follows news from HuffPost UK on Monday that a company involved in the technical set-up of the new room, Megahertz, has previously conducted similar work for Russian broadcasters – including the state-owned news channel Russia Today.
He continued: “It just beggars belief. It’s the idea that he can’t buy a sofa for less than £250,000 from a designer.
“Literally, it’s a metaphor for an entire year of Covid incompetence.
“You are meant to be politicians, but the sheer tin ear of saying, in a week where the nurses are getting 1 per cent, ‘I think I need a big room with some microphones in it, and then I can announce to people…’ What? I don’t know.”
As the majority of the Zoom audience were seen clapping in response to Hislop’s comments, he added: “We’ve had a whole year of briefings – it’s fine, I like the slides. I mean, forget the spokesperson.”
Twitter users responded to the clip with similar levels of disbelief over the £2.6 million figure:
Others pointed out that sometimes, a far more serious approach to politics is funnier than satire:
Despite the new renovation, few details of when the new briefings will take place have been revealed.
The sessions were due to begin last year, but were delayed, with a No 10 spokesperson telling BBC News that they are on pause while Government ministers continued with their press conferences on the coronavirus.