‘Get me Riz Lateef!’: Boris Johnson ‘tries to recruit BBC London newsreader to front government’s daily press conferences due to begin in the autumn
- Boris Johnson’s ‘first choice to front the government daily briefings is Riz Lateef’
- PM is familiar with BBC presenter Lateef from his time as the Mayor of London
- Lateef is thought to have been ‘flattered’ by the offer but has turned it down
Boris Johnson wants to recruit BBC London presenter Riz Lateef as the face of the government’s daily press conferences, set to start in the autumn.
Lateef is the prime minister’s top choice for the job, according to senior Tory sources, which comes with a salary of at least £100,000.
Work is already underway to create a television studio at 9 Downing Street, a former colonial courtroom, where the new spokesperson will host a daily tea time briefing.
Lateef was known for giving Boris Johnson a tough time in interviews during his time as London Mayor.
The presenter, 40, is seen as ‘fair’ and a ‘straight shooter’ by Johnson, with a source telling the Times: ‘Riz Lateef was Boris’s first thought.’
Riz Lateef was known for giving Boris Johnson a tough time in interviews during his time as London Mayor
The presenter, 40, is seen as ‘fair’ and a ‘straight shooter’ by Johnson and was understood to be the PM’s favourite for the spokesperson role
However, it is understood that she was flattered to be considered for the job but turned it down.
The hunt for a spokesperson is set to intensify this week.
Allegra Stratton, communications director for Rishi Sunak is regarded as favourite by government insiders.
She has worked as a journalist for The Guardian, the BBC and ITV News and is credited with helping to make Sunak the most trusted minister in the government.
Lateef has previously been named as one of the 1,000 most influential people in London and was the winner of the media category at the Asian Women of Achievement awards in 2009 for her coverage of Johnson’s first mayoral campaign victory in 2008.
Sophy Ridge, lead political interviewer for Sky News, is also understood to have turned down the job.
Johnson’s plans to introduce daily televised press briefings from October are facing a set back after it emerged Sky News and the BBC may not always cover the events.
The decision to introduce the afternoon TV briefings was made by Number 10 as part of a bid to communicate more directly with voters
Downing Street is currently in the process of recruiting a £100,000-a-year political spokesman who will be tasked with hosting the daily grilling.
But the UK’s two major broadcasters are expected to only show the briefings based ‘on merit’ which means they could cut away early or fail to show them at all if they are judged not to be newsworthy.
The decision to introduce the afternoon TV briefings was made by Number 10 as part of a bid to communicate more directly with voters.
The Government is keen to replicate the success of the daily Downing Street coronavirus press conferences which saw millions of people tune in for the latest updates.
The afternoon TV events will replace an existing off-camera press briefing currently carried out by the PM’s official spokesman.
A similar off-camera briefing which takes place in the morning will continue as normal.