Robert Peston's fury with Downing Street for not answering his questions: 'So annoying!'

Ever since COVID-19 transformed our lives, Britons have been tuning in to the daily press briefings led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his key ministers and advisors. For journalists in particular, according to ITV political editor Robert Peston, it has been a “very frustrating experience”. Letting off steam, Mr Peston told Jack Blanchard: “Ministers, the Prime Minister, the chief scientific adviser and chief medical officer quite often didn’t answer the questions…

“As a journalist it is just so annoying to ask something and then be confronted with obfuscation.

“Particularly on issues as big as that.”

Mr Peston made the example of asking a question really early on about people losing their sense of smell and getting a “really hopeless answer” from one of the scientists.

He explained: “He said: ‘we don’t know much about it’.

“And then X weeks later, the same scientist would turn up, saying: ‘it’s terribly important that if you have lost your sense of smell, that you stay at home’.

“Somehow there was never an opportunity to say to those people ‘why did it take you so long?’”

Mr Peston’s comments on POLITICO’s Westminster Insider Podcast can be seen as somewhat ironic, as the ITV journalist suffered several technical blunders during the press conferences.

More than once, ministers and officials had to tell him his microphone was muted and to repeat his questions, causing havoc on social media.

Mr Peston even appeared to use an expletive at some point in March last year.

The ITV political editor said his connection to the briefing was unstable and appeared to say “Oh s**t” when Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak called on him to ask his question.

Afterwards, Mr Peston retweeted a clip of the moment, and said: “Just to clear up any misunderstanding, the screen froze at precisely the moment the Chancellor turned to me!”

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This prompted frustration from the journalist, which was aired to the public as the conference moved on to the next caller.

Last week, Mr Johnson hosted the first press conference from the new Downing Street briefing room.

The Prime Minister addressed the nation as the “stay-at-home” order was dropped, and the Rule of Six returned outdoors.

His announcement took place in the specially-created press room at No 9 Downing Street, which the Government spent £2.6million renovating.

All future press conferences will be given from this room, which will also be used for White House-style daily televised briefings for journalists, Mr Johnson’s spokesperson Allegra Stratton announced.

She said: “Work on the briefing room in No 9 Downing Street is now complete, so going forward all future coronavirus press conferences will take place over in No 9.”

The stage has a bright blue backdrop, with four Union Flags flanking the wooden podium, which says “Downing Street” on the front in gold letters.

There is a television screen to one side of the stage, and seating for journalists, who will now be able to ask questions in-person rather than over video link.

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