PM’s new TV spokeswoman Allegra Stratton moves to end the war of words with media
Allegra Stratton has started her job in the wake of the chaos which followed high profile departures last week (Image: PA)
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Boris Johnson's new political spokeswoman Allegra Stratton is moving to end Downing Street's war of words with the media.
Ex-journalist Ms Stratton, who joins No10 from the Treasury where she worked for Rishi Sunak, led a marked shift in tone in a call with journalists.
It comes after months of deteriorating relationships between journalists and No 10.
Under a regime led by Dominic Cummings and former Director of Communications of Lee Cain some journalists were excluded from briefings.
During the 2019 General Election, including the Mirror, found themselves excluded from Conservative party events and were banned from Mr Johnson's campaigning bus.
At the start of the pandemic, Downing Street attempted to reset relationships with the press but scrutiny averse advisors inside the Government soon began to throw their toys out of the pram.
When it was revealed that political appointees had attended SAGE meetings, a political spokesman for the PM claimed that "public confidence in the media has collapsed during this emergency partly because of ludicrous stories such as this".
The change in tone comes after the departure of Mr Cummings
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Asked repeatedly to provide any evidence for the claim, Downing Street repeatedly failed to over many weeks.
But today, Ms Stratton, who was a senior political reporter at the Guardian, BBC and ITV, moved to ease simmering tension.
She hailed the “positive” role played by journalists in keeping the public informed during the coronavirus pandemic.
In her role as press secretary, Ms Stratton told journalists: “The prime minister, as a former journalist, has spoken publicly about the positive role the media has played during this pandemic in spreading information about what we need people to do, to observe social distancing and so on.
“And indeed, inside the building, quite often the prime minister can be heard saying he has seen such-and-such a TV broadcast which was very powerful and what should we be doing about the particular issue.
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“It’s certainly my understanding that the prime minister believes the media has had a very good and powerful role during the pandemic so far.”
But asked if Mr Johnson would now be apologising to people outraged by Mr Cummings’ decision to drive his family from London to Durham at a time when he believed that both he and his wife were infected with Covid-19, Ms Stratton said: “I think the prime minister regards that issue to be closed.
“At the time Dominic Cummings did a lengthy explanation of his actions. The prime minister believed then that he had accounted for himself and that is now in the past.”