Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Will Brown scrap the monthly press conferences?

On his peerless blog yesterday, Iain Dale posed the question whether Tony Blair's monthly press conferences serve any remaining purpose, given his refusal to answer the important questions currently on the lips of voters. To take two examples: (i) what does he think of the findings of James Baker's Iraq Study Group report, and (ii) whether he has been questioned by detectives investigating the "cash for honours" affair.

I was in the Lobby when the "pressers" started up an few years back and the common consensus at the time was that they provided a useful opportunity to put the Prime Minister on the spot. I even managed to get the odd question in myself occasionally.

Recently, though, the monthly Q&As seem to have got stuck in a bit of rut. The BBC's James Landale had to ask three questions yesterday before he found one the PM was prepared to answer, and practically the only decent story to come out of it was that Mr Blair thinks the PC anti-Christmas brigade are misguided, which is nice to know.

It could just be that it's because Mr Blair is on the way out, and he really doesn't give a monkey's any more. But either way, I seriously question whether Gordon Brown, if he becomes Prime Minister, will continue with them, for two reasons.

Firstly, they are very "presidential" in nature, and I don't think that will be Gordon's style as premier. Secondly he will be looking to make changes in the structure and conduct of government that draw a line under the Blair years and make the point that this is a new administration.

If Brown does decide to continue with regular press conferences, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he made them regional events, rehearsing the time-honoured technique of by-passing the venal Parliamentary lobby to talk "directly" to voters via the more trusted local press hacks.

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1 comment:

RedEye said...

I would very much imagine that Brown will scrap the press conferences, given his dislike of being questioned or exposed to differences of opinion. Note how, whenever possible, he avoids answering for matters for which he has direct responsibility (such as the tax credits, and the problems with their administration), leaving the likes of Dawn Primarolo to answer instead.

As for his dislike of dissent, Alistair Darling found himself crossed off circulation lists after he mildly queried the Chancellor in a Cabinet committee. He learnt his lesson, and hasn't queried Brown since.