James Forsyth

The message behind Raab’s solo press conference

The message behind Raab's solo press conference
Picture by Pippa Fowles / No. 10 Downing Street
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In a change of government approach, Dominic Raab appeared alone at Monday night's Downing Street press conference: he was not flanked by a medic or a scientist. This is only the second time a minister has appeared on their own, and the first time it happened government sources said it was because the chief nurse was stuck in traffic. In reply to a question from Jane Merrick of the i, Raab made clear that government ministers would now be flying solo more frequently. He said that scientists would still attend from time to time, but ministers would also appear with school leaders and the like as the country reopened.

The move away from having the scientists present at every press conference will please Tory MPs. As I wrote on Saturday, they felt that the format had handed the scientists an effective veto over policy changes on issues such as the two-metre rule. 'They had them flanking him to shield him, but now he’s captive to them', is how one Tory grandee described Boris Johnson’s press conferences with the chief medical officer Chris Whitty and the chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance.

Raab said that while the government would be informed by the science, ministers had to make ‘judgement calls’ on the best way to proceed, which is a shift away from being ‘led by the science’. It appears that Boris Johnson has taken the advice of The Spectator leader column to ‘take back control from the scientists’. I suspect that many members of Sage will be happy with this development. They know they are there to advise, not to take decisions.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator.

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