Downing Street lifts boycott of ITV's Good Morning Britain

Government ministers will once again submit to interviews by Piers Morgan after Downing Street lifted a months-long boycott of ITV’s breakfast programme Good Morning Britain.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, will appear on the show on Monday, in the first appearance by a member of the government on the programme since April.

The symbolic move could signal a new attitude towards the media in Downing Street following the departure of Boris Johnson’s communications chief Lee Cain and senior adviser Dominic Cummings, who were both happy to pick fights with outlets they did not like.

Last December they imposed a boycott of Radio 4’s Today programme, which lasted until the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, as part of a series of attacks on the BBC. Other programmes to have received the cold shoulder from the Johnson administration include Channel 4 News and BBC Two’s Newsnight, often accompanied by anonymous briefings that the programmes were biased against the government and therefore not worth engaging with.

The boycott of Good Morning Britain began shortly after imposition of the first national lockdown, amid trenchant on-air criticism from Morgan about the government’s handling of the pandemic.

On Sunday, Morgan said the government had finally given in and would provide ministers to be cross-examined on air. He tweeted: “BREAKING: Just had a call from Downing Street. The 201-day government boycott of GMB is over and health secretary Matt Hancock will be appearing on the show tomorrow morning.”

Last week the programme managed to briefly feature Hancock after one of its reporters ran up to the health secretary as he finished an interview with a rival channel outside the BBC’s headquarters.

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The reporter, Nick Dixon, asked Hancock live on air why ministers were boycotting the show. “When will you come on and talk to Piers and Susannah?” he asked. “Oh, I’ll come on as soon as I possibly can,” Hancock replied.

Dixon offered to clear the schedule. “We have got time for you tomorrow, we will make a special slot for you tomorrow, running order entirely cleared just for you.”

Hancock said: “That’s very kind of you. Unfortunately I have got something in the diary tomorrow morning and I’ve got an awful lot of work to do to get this vaccine rolled out, thanks very much.”

Ministers have continued to appear on most other leading programmes throughout the pandemic, although the focus is likely to shift to new daily televised press conferences hosted by the press secretary, Allegra Stratton, which will start in the new year.



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