Ex-Journalist Allegra Stratton to lead No 10 TV briefings

Allegra StrattonImage source, ITV
Image caption,
Stratton left the BBC in 2015 to work for ITV News

Former journalist Allegra Stratton will lead No 10's new daily televised press briefings, BBC sources understand.

Stratton - who has worked for both ITV and the BBC and is Chancellor Rishi Sunak's spokeswoman - will become the government's new press secretary.

The daily updates, similar to the format used by the White House in the United States, will start next month.

The change comes after a raft of televised press conferences from Downing Street during the coronavirus pandemic.

Currently, political journalists are able to question the prime minister's official spokesperson - who is a civil servant - off camera every day.

These briefings are on the record, meaning they can be quoted and attributed to the spokesperson, who is never named. Under the changes, the briefings will be on camera.

Stratton's role, however, is a political appointment by the Conservative Party, although as a special adviser her wages will be paid by the taxpayer.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Boris Johnson and cabinet ministers fronted press conferences throughout the coronavirus pandemic

The BBC's deputy political editor, Vicki Young, said the government wanted to introduce the briefings to "try and get their message out there to viewers".

But she said the idea was controversial, as it would not be updates from an elected official.

After the plan was announced in July, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it could risk "unbalancing the political discourse" and was "obviously a political move".

Labour announced that their leader would take questions from the media at monthly press conferences, with a spokesman saying Sir Keir "doesn't duck the difficult questions or hide from the press".

But Downing Street said ministers would make regular appearances at the briefings to be led by Stratton.

Who is Allegra Stratton?

Stratton graduated from Cambridge university and began her journalistic career as a producer at the BBC.

She then became a political correspondent for the Guardian, before returning to the BBC as the political editor of Newsnight.

But earlier this year, she quit journalism to become the director of strategic communications for Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

When the job was advertised on the Conservative Party LinkenIn page it said the salary would be "based on experience", but the Daily Telegraph suggested it was likely to be more than £100,000-a-year.

Stratton will be employed as a special adviser - a temporary class of civil servant allowed to give political advice to ministers.

This means she will be free to attack the opposition parties, as well as setting out the government's position.

Her daily briefings will take place in a redeveloped 9 Downing Street, which in recent years has been used by the chief whip and the Brexit secretary.