Opinion

Boris Johnson Throws Down Gauntlet to Westminster Journalists


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On his return to Downing Street after being hospitalised with Coronavirus, Boris Johnson has announced that members of the public will take part in the daily press briefings.

Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic and especially since lockdown measures have been imposed, the Downing Street press briefings have become a focal point. The briefings are broadcast on national television across the UK, and prior to Johnson falling ill, he was at the podium every day.

The press however, seem to have missed the point of the daily press briefings, notably that it is the way for the government to update the people of the country.

Instead, the usual narratives from the Westminster press pack along political lines continued into these – nothing-like-peacetime – daily televised events.

Instead of trying to get the answers to the questions being asked across the country, journalists continued to try and trip up ministers. They have been asking questions that would be warranted in a normal political news cycle, but not at a time of national emergency.

Not just that, they have also embarked on asking the scientists and specialists – who are also appearing at the press briefings – overtly political questions, thus putting the scientists at odds with the politicians.

The nation isn’t interested in any of that right now. The questions that the public want answering have been roundly ignored by the Westminster journalists, seemingly confirming the answer to one major question – are the journalists in Westminster as detached from society as the politicians are?

Well, Boris Johnson has decided to do something about it. As of today, the general public can submit questions to be asked directly at the press briefings.

Effectively, the Prime Minister has challenged the Westminster lobby to up their game. The professional journalists face the very real prospect of being upstaged publicly, by questions from non-journalists.

With a recent poll showing trust in print and television journalists plummeting, there will need to be some soul-searching in order to rebuild that trust and credibility – all whilst now competing against the very people who they are there to ask questions on behalf of in the first place.

So, anyone over the age of 18, can submit a question here.

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