No. 10 seeks political comms operative to lead White House-style press briefings

Downing Street has begun the search for a £100,000-a-year political press spokesman to “communicate with the nation on behalf of the Prime Minister” in televised briefings from the autumn, with several industry names under consideration.

(Boris Johnson photo by FRANK AUGSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images; Lee Cain photo by Paul Grover/Shutterstock)
(Boris Johnson photo by FRANK AUGSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images; Lee Cain photo by Paul Grover/Shutterstock)

Boris Johnson is understood to wish to capitalise on the success of the daily coronavirus press conferences, which began in March following criticism that the Government was selectively briefing media outlets at the start of the crisis.

The successful candidate must have “excellent risk management and crisis communications skills,” according to the job description posted by Conservative Central Office this morning, and must be willing to undergo security clearance.

They will become a political adviser to the Prime Minister and a “trusted” member of Downing Street’s senior team.

The new spokesman will report to Downing Street director of comms Lee Cain, and will either be experienced in communications or a senior journalist “with the ability to remain calm and measured under pressure”.

They will represent Johnson to an “audience of millions” on a daily basis from October – via mainstream broadcast channels and social media – and explain the Government’s position on a range of issues.

Industry names considered
According to Conservative leaning website Conservative Home, industry names thought to be under consideration for the role, include Katie Perrior, former director of communications under Theresa May,  Phil Hall, founder and chairman of PHA Group, as well as former BBC royal correspondent and spokesman to the family of Madeleine McCann, Clarence Mitchell. 

A political role
Downing Street emphasised that the job was political and that a keen understanding of political issues, along with news judgement in a pressured environment, were critical skills needed for the job.

Making the role political means that the spokesman will be free to answer questions on the policies of opposition parties.

Daily off-camera Lobby briefings, led by Cain, Johnson’s official spokesman, James Slack, and the Prime Minister’s press secretary, Jack Doyle, are expected to continue alongside the televised press conferences.

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