Britain is advertising for a skilled communicator to front newly-televised government media briefings – a job billed as “speaking to the nation” for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Johnson’s government is moving to White House-style on-camera briefings later this year, ending decades of tradition and shining a new light on the sometimes cosy relationship between reporters and ministers.
“This is a unique opportunity to work at the centre of government, and communicate with the nation on behalf of the Prime Minister,” said a job advert on the ruling Conservative Party’s website.
“You will speak directly to the public on the issues they care most about, explaining the government’s position, reassuring people that we are taking action on their priorities and driving positive changes.”
Pay for the role would depend on experience, though the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported it could exceed 100,000 pounds – more than most lawmakers.
It comes after the perceived success of daily news conferences during the coronavirus pandemic.
That echoes the format in Washington to televise what have been – particularly during President Donald Trump’s administration – sometimes awkward and hostile tussles between reporters and officials.
NO MORE DRAUGHTY “LOBBY” MEETINGS?
It marks a shift resisted by successive governments and some sections of the press, and will partially replace twice-daily off-screen meetings between the government and reporters.
Those so-called “lobby” arrangements have evolved from secret briefings in the 1920s to on-the-record meetings in a draughty turret room inside the Palace of Westminster or, most recently, a former court chamber attached to the prime minister’s residence.
Alongside an ability to “remain calm and measured under pressure”, the successful candidate requires “excellent risk management and crisis communications skills”, the ad said.
“Working in the prime minister’s communications team involves working under pressure and to immovable deadlines.”
Though less visible than American counterparts, Britain’s spokesmen have long been influential: former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s right-hand man Alastair Campbell became a famous “spin doctor”, dividing opinion with his ceaseless efforts to turn bad news into good.