Downing Street Spends £2.6m On Revamp For White House-Style Press Briefings

As nurses considered taking industrial action, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “It would take around 100 years for a newly qualified nurse to get paid this kind of money.

“It sums up Boris Johnson’s warped priorities that he can find millions for vanity projects, while picking the pockets of NHS workers.”

Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper added: “This is nothing more than an expensive vanity project and is just more evidence that this government’s priority is spin, not substance.

“The prime minister himself said that he ‘owed his life’ to Covid doctors and nurses but now he’s happy to see frontline nurses take a real-terms pay cut, whilst he gets a flashy new TV studio – the Prime Minister should hang his head in shame.”

The disclosure came as the PM faced pressure over the refurbishment of his official flat above No. 11 overseen by his fiancee, Carrie Symonds.

With costs reported to be spiralling, Downing Street refused to deny that Johnson was considering setting up a charity to pay for the works to the flat.

The move raised concerns of possible conflicts of interest, offering a potential back door to providing a financial benefit to the PM.

The televised briefings were said to be the brainchild of Johnson’s former adviser Lee Cain, but he reportedly disagreed with the PM’s choice of former journalist Allegra Stratton as press secretary to lead the briefings as a government spokesperson.

Cain later left Downing Street, along with former Vote Leave colleague Dominic Cummings, as a behind-the-scenes power struggle within No 10 spilled out into the open.

An advert said the salary for the press secretary role would be based on experience, but reports suggested the taxpayer-funded post would pay around £100,000 a year.

The FoI response, which was delayed by several weeks as officials decided whether the disclosure was in the public interest, included £1,848,695.12 for the “main works”.

Other costs included £198,023.75 on “long lead items”, and £33,394.63 on broadband equipment.

In January No. 10 said the daily broadcasts were being delayed as ministers planned to hold regular press conferences during the lockdown.

Lobby correspondents, the political reporters based in parliament, currently have daily briefings with the PM’s official spokesman, or his deputy – both civil servants.

But under proposals set out in July, an afternoon session will be filmed at 9 Downing Street, led by Stratton.

As a politically appointed special adviser, rather than an impartial civil servant, she will be able to take aim at opponents as well as defend the government’s actions.

More Stories
Superman reboot ‘leak’: ‘Henry Cavill’s future in DCEU uncertain with new hero inbound’