Boris Johnson scraps plan for White House-style press briefings - despite spending £2.6m on studio

The Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton, who was due to field questions from journalists at the daily press briefings, has now been appointed as spokeswoman for the United Nations Cop26 summit.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference in the new £2.6m studio. (Photo by Toby Melville - WPA Pool / Getty Images)

The plan for White House-style press conferences has been scrapped by Downing Street - despite more than £2.6 million having already been spent on the venue.

The room in No 9 Downing Street has already been kitted out with cameras and rows of chairs for journalists.

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The Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton was due to field questions from political correspondents.

Downing Street Press Secretary Allegra Stratton arrives at 10 Downing Street (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

However, Boris Johnson has reportedly axed plans for the daily televised media briefings and the studio will be used for ministerial press conferences, as first reported by The Times.

Ms Stratton has been appointed as spokeswoman for the United Nations Cop26 summit, which is due to take place in Glasgow in November.

Studio labelled ‘vanity project’

It was revealed last month by the Press Association that the media room had cost £2.6 million to install.

The refurbishment was branded a “vanity project” by Labour.

The room had its first use in March when the Prime Minister addressed the nation about the next stage of lockdown easing, with previous coronavirus briefings held in No 10.

How Labour has responded

Responding to the plans being scrapped, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “Boris Johnson is clearly running scared of scrutiny and questions about Tory sleaze and dodgy lobbying.

“Instead of wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on a pointless vanity project the Prime Minister should have used the money to give our NHS heroes a pay rise.”

The cost of the Downing Street studio

A freedom of information (FoI) request by PA revealed that the overhaul of No 9 had cost £2,607,767.67, largely excluding VAT.

Costs detailed in the FoI response included £1,848,695.12 for the “main works”, £198,023.75 on “long lead items”, and £33,394.63 on broadband equipment.

The launch of the televised briefings had been anticipated as early as the autumn, but in January No 10 said they were being delayed as ministers planned to hold regular press conferences during the lockdown.