Eyes roll after government scraps White House-style briefings despite £2.6 million press room

Eyes roll after government scraps White House-style briefings despite £2.6 million press room

The nation’s head is in its hands after Boris Johnson ’s plan to use a £2.6m media room for White House-style press briefings has been scrapped.

This would be all very well if the rather eye-watering sum of money hadn’t already been spent on building a rather OTT venue for these briefings…

But it has – so people’s teeth are firmly gritted, watching the money go down the toilet.

One person called it a “vanity project” and questioned what good could have been done with the sum:

Author Emma Kennedy wondered what the reaction would have been like if a Labour government had done the same:

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And someone rightly said instances like this meant the UK was like a sitcom:

Plans for the very expensive room in No 9 Downing Street were announced in July last year. Johnson said at the time that the public wanted more “direct engagement” with decision-makers.

The Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton, who was brought in to be the face of Downing Street, was due to field questions from political correspondents in these briefings. Why this could not take place in existing and cheaper rooms was unclear.

But it couldn’t, apparently, and so the room was made, featuring four Union flags and aquarium like blue walls. We have not had witness testimony from those forced to sit in the room but we can only imagine the experience as akin to sitting in the belly of a patriotic whale.

And the plan was derided at the time, not least because government lackies forgot to move a Henry Hoover before taking official photos of the room:

Speaking to the BBC, following the news that the briefings had been cancelled, Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner said Johnson was “running scared of scrutiny”.

She added: “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.”

Others were similarly frustrated:

The room has been used a handful of times since March for coronavirus press briefings, replacing the state dining room in No 10 as the backdrop for announcements, and will continue to be used for other briefings.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has insisted it was not a waste of taxpayers’ money and said the modern facility would also be available for future governments in years to come.

Stratton, who is paid a salary of around £125,000 a year, has also now been appointed as a spokesperson for the UN’s Cop26 summit which will take place in Glasgow in November, so at least she has something to do.

Seems like a good use of money all round, then.

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