British government posts job ad for on-camera spokesperson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is looking for a spokesperson with broadcasting experience — and a thick skin — to become the government’s face at televised media briefings.

The government placed a job ad Wednesday on the governing Conservative Party’s website seeking applicants with news judgment, the ability to remain calm under pressure and “excellent risk management and crisis communications skills.”

For years, the prime minister’s official spokespeople, who are civil servants rather than political appointees, have briefed journalists off-camera but on the record twice daily. Starting in the fall, the morning briefing will continue in the current format but the afternoon session will be a televised briefing, similar to those held at the White House.

The job advertisement says the position is “a unique opportunity to communicate with the nation on behalf of the prime minister,” with the chance to “influence and shape public opinion.”

The ad says salary will be based on experience, though the Conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph newspaper reported it would be more than 100,000 pounds ($173,000 Cdn) a year.

The spokesperson is likely to become a lightning rod for criticism of the government at a time of multiple crises.

Britain is still battling the coronavirus outbreak that has left nearly 46,000 people dead, and is due to make a definitive break from the European Union when a post-Brexit transition period ends on Dec. 31.

Frequent coronavirus briefings have influenced the thinking on the new role, Johnson told LBC Radio earlier this month.

“People have liked more direct detailed information from the government about what’s going on,” said Johnson, who added that he might be “popping up from time to time” at the briefings but not frequently.

Viewers around the world are used to seeing televised White House briefings by the U.S. president’s press secretary, although the briefings have become sporadic under the Trump administration.