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Backlash after government tried to choose questions from public at No 10 briefings

Prime minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). - Credit: PA

The government has made a speedy u-turn on how it selects questions for ministers from the public at coronavirus press briefings, after previously updating its guidance to suggest it would now choose what was asked.

Byline Times reported the government’s website was updated on Monday to state that it no longer leaves an independent polling company to decide questions posed to ministers at the Number 10 events.

It previously insisted politicians did not have sight of the questions asked.

But on Monday new guidance states that the company would shortlist a set of questions – with the government deciding “which ones are asked at each event” – sparking criticism from Twitter users.

“What is the point of even asking questions?” asked Mike Conyers.

“You mean they don’t already?” asked Nushra Mansuri. “Isn’t this a man who hid in a fridge rather than go on GMB?”

MORE: Government drops plans for White House style press briefings

“They might as well just write the questions themselves,” said another.

However, shortly after the report was published, there was a sharp reversal of the website information. 

The guidance now states that questions will be chosen by the polling company with the Cabinet Office contacting the member of the public if their question is chosen.

“So officials have either U-turned, or they released a misleading policy without realising,” commented journalist Sam Bright.

It follows attempts by Downing Street to urge Twitter users to submit more questions – a move that also spectacularly backfired.

Downing Street has not answered media questions on the matter.

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