Keir Starmer warns new televised ‘White House style’ briefings risks ‘unbalancing the political discourse’

PUBLISHED: 12:54 07 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:54 07 July 2020

Handout photo issued by 10 Downing Street of Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 23, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Handout photo issued by 10 Downing Street of Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19). PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 23, 2020. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Labour leader Keir Starmer is investigating ways to be given the right-to-reply to Boris Johnson after he announced plans to start televising daily press briefings with journalists later this year.

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Rather than being ronted by the prime minister, Johnson will put forward a political appointee to host the briefings. Downing Street has said it expects to begin recruitment for the role this month.

Johnson said the televised events would improve “accountability and transparency” within his government, but Labour leader Starmer said it was an “obviously political move” which risks “unbalancing the political discourse”.

Speaking to the Evening Standard Starmer said he was looking at how Labour can continue to offer opposition to Johnson when the events begin.

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“It’s obviously a political move. Nobody can quarrel with greater transparency but this is political and one of the greatest things in our democracy is balance and hearing both sides,” he said.

“We are exploring, and keen to explore, just how the political balance is maintained if you move to this style of briefing. That’s the risk of it, that it unbalances the political discourse.”

He added: “Our democracy thrives on balance and in particular the opposition being able to hold the government to account. So that needs to be addressed.”

Dominic Cummings’ shake-up of Whitehall later this year will reduce the number of communications staff working in government, leading to a more centralised role for Downing Street in promoting key messages.

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