A piece in today’s Times, a paper which is becoming ever more like The Guardian in its coverage of gender-related matters:
No 10 is on the hunt for a female broadcaster to host daily White House-style televised briefings and broadcast its message directly to the public.
Boris Johnson wants to build on the success of the coronavirus press briefings with the new format starting in October.
The successful candidate will be paid more than £100,000 to field questions from lobby journalists — more than MPs and on par with most cabinet ministers.
It is understood that the government is determined to hire a woman to counter the impression that Mr Johnson has a “woman problem”. Three quarters of his cabinet ministers are men, and No 10 has been criticised for the lack of women fronting its coronavirus briefings.
Sources have said that the successful candidate will quickly build a higher profile than almost the entire cabinet.
The press conferences will replace the question-and-answer sessions held with lobby journalists behind closed doors. A private lobby briefing that takes place in the mornings will continue. The spokeswoman will be a political appointment rather than civil service, allowing her to engage with questions about opposition party policies.
Several broadcasters have been tipped for the role, including Sophy Ridge of Sky News, Amber de Botton of ITV News and Allegra Stratton, who recently became the chancellor’s director of strategic communications.
Isabel Oakeshott, the former political editor of The Sunday Times, has also been floated as a potential candidate. She is an outspoken Brexiteer and defended Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s adviser, when he was accused of breaking lockdown rules.
In a job advert for the role, the Conservative Party said that “a keen understanding of political issues will be essential”.
Candidates are asked to demonstrate first-rate news judgment, an ability to communicate complex issues and a grasp of the political context in which the government operates. Lee Cain, No 10’s director of communications, wrote that the successful candidate would become a “trusted political adviser” with the chance to “influence and shape public opinion”.
“You will represent the government and the prime minister to an audience of millions on a daily basis,” Mr Cain wrote. “You will speak directly to the public on the issues they care most about, explaining the government’s position, reassuring people that we are taking action on their priorities and driving positive changes.”
The deadline for applications is August 21. A team of producers will also be hired.
Mr Johnson has come under fire from Caroline Nokes, who chairs the Commons women and equalities committee, and Amber Rudd, the former Tory home secretary, over the lack of women in his top team. Ms Rudd said that “the prime minister is clearly more comfortable with men”.
Priti Patel, the home secretary, was the only female minister to take a turn hosting No 10’s press briefings and made three appearances.
Mr Johnson was criticised this week [J4MB: By The Guardian] after only three women were named on the next peerages list out of an expected 30 new members of the Lords.
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