Thank you for your reading and interest in the news Who will lead the UK government's new White House-style briefings? and now with details
Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - It’s a job that even the potential future employer has done his best to discourage applicants from but offers a daily slot on national television.
Britain's prime minister is looking for a television frontman for the first time - an official spokesperson willing to take to the airwaves to set out government policy in real time.
The job advert itself makes it clear that this is not a task for the faint of heart. It describes a “highly demanding” role where the successful candidate will be constantly “working under pressure” and that “out of hours work will be routine”.
The former holders of the job were backroom operators. By convention they carry out daily briefings on an anonymous basis.
One ex-PMs spokesman described the new role as a job for a "masochist” who will be in the public spotlight every day, with little job security and even less time off.
But, with Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson as bosses, successful candidate will at least get to work very closely with two of the greatest mavericks or geniuses - or both - of the last few decades in British politics.
Unfortunately, if the above seemed appealing then applications closed last week. Although if no one takes up the post, or more likely, if it comes free again, there’s a chance you could re-apply.
Meet the contenders
Serious contenders for the job as Spokesperson for the Prime Minister have seemingly been quite thin on the ground. That’s perhaps why someone in Downing Street media operations slipped out the name of local London BBC presenter Riz Lateef, 40, as a potential frontrunner over the weekend.
It was, the source suggested to The Sunday Times, Ms Lateef’s tough questioning of Boris Johnson while he was Mayor of London that made him admire her. A strong, resilient and respected journalist was someone who would be perfect as the new White House style press spokesperson ready to front the daily live televised press briefings Downing Street hopes will sell its message.
“Riz Lateef was Boris’s first thought,” the source said. Unfortunately, Ms Lateef has ruled herself out of the post.
Step forward Sophie Ridge, 35, a leading political presenter for Sky News, used to dealing with troublesome cabinet ministers on her eponymous Sunday politics show. Alas, she too apparently turned down the job, that insiders say Downing Street is keen to be filled by a woman, to balance out the male-heavy cabinet.
It thus perhaps falls to the respected and adept Allegra Stratton, 39, to become the face of Boris Johnson’s government. Having been in the political arena for almost two decades both on Fleet Street and at the BBC and ITV, she’s no stranger to dust-ups and robustly standing up to bullying politicians. And that edge has clearly been sharpened by her time as a Special Adviser to Rishi Sunak that she started in April since when the young Chancellor’s star has soared.
She will by now be well aware of the high demands, out of hours working and the characters of those on the prime minister’s inner team.
The question is would she really want to do it?
Downing Street veterans give their view
Sir Bernard Ingham, who is seen as one of the most successful and curmudgeonly holders of the PM spokesman post under Margaret Thatcher, had this view on the role: “My mischievous friends are urging me to apply for the £100,000-a-year job as government spokesman giving daily televised White House-style media briefings. No chance. I am no masochist.”
Sir Craig Oliver, director of communications for David Cameron, believed the job was for someone willing to “take the bullets” for their boss. “You’re in the frontline and your job is to defend the government and put the government and the prime minister first.”
Paul Harrison, who was Theresa May’s press secretary, diplomatically calls the task “an enormously, possibly uniquely challenging role in government communications”.
The pitfalls of leading the government’s line on sometimes indefensible policies – the current administration is gaining a reputation for U-turns – and to be the front for troubling or breaking stories are plenty.
At risk is your reputation, which if you adopt the stance of Sean Spicer, President Donald Trump’s first press secretary, of being rather misleading it’s a tricky one to recover. Mr Spicer was last seen on a celebrity dancing show wearing a neon ruffled shirt...
Updated: September 1, 2020 08:58 PM
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