Looks like Hancock’s Half Hour, the once-daily media briefings on Covid-19, usually hosted by health secretary Matt Hancock, are about to make a comeback – although not about the virus we hope.
The Government is reportedly planning to introduce “White House style” daily televised briefings on all and sundry in October, part of Dominic Cummings’ grand plan to communicate directly with the people, without all those pesky hacks in the way. He also wants to reduce the (admittedly bizarre) 4000 spin doctors (what we used to call press officers) populating Whitehall.
It’s all going to be controlled by the Cabinet Office (helmed by Michael Gove, described by some as the UK government’s CEO – Boris being a kind of chairman-at-large – advised by his old mucker at the Department of Education, Cummings.)
There are many eery similarities between Boris Johnson’s No 10 operation and Donald Trump’s misfiring White House. The most important is probably the intention to ignore the wishes of anyone who doesn’t agree with them. This is quite radical on both sides of the Atlantic where the perceived job of government in a democracy has been to represent all the people.
Trump’s omnipresent social media presence (even with labels saying it’s all cobblers) seems to be a template for Gove, Cummings and co. Daily free airtime is a big bonus on top. But what if the BBC and ITV choose not to cover it or confine it to a minority channel?
Another mega-row with the broadcasters looms.