Boris Johnson looks set to duck televised debates on the BBC and Channel 4 News in the run-up to next month’s general election and could also escape a grilling from Andrew Neil.
Neither the Prime Minister nor Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn will attend the BBC’s seven-way election debate hosted by Nick Robinson live from Cardiff on Friday, with leaders from the SNP and Lib Dems set to take part.
Instead Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak will represent the Tories, while Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey will represent Labour at the debate.
The BBC has also said it is in “ongoing discussions” with Johnson’s team but has yet to fix a date for him to face Neil in a half-hour interview, which had been expected to air next week.
Neil’s interview with Corbyn, which aired on BBC One last night, drew an audience of 3m and made national news headlines this morning.
Neil and BBC live political programmes editor Rob Burley praised the Labour leader for “facing the toughest test of TV”.
Indeed. Fair play. https://t.co/zrcpMNeE0I
— Andrew Neil (@afneil) November 27, 2019
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has already faced Neil, with Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson confirmed for 4 December and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage set to be interviewed on 5 December.
Both Johnson and Farage have so far refused invitations to attend Channel 4 News’ climate debate, which the broadcaster has billed as a UK TV first, due to air tomorrow night at 7pm.
Channel 4 News editor Ben de Pear told Press Gazette he would empty chair politicians who did not attend. The Brexit Party has confirmed it will not join the debate.
Johnson and Corbyn have already taken part in a head-to-head on ITV last week and a BBC Question Time leaders’ special on Friday.
Some 6.7m people tuned into the ITV debate, the first of the election period. A peak audience of 4.6m watched Johnson, Corbyn, Swinson and Sturgeon face questions from the audience on Question Time.
Channel 4 was forced to cancel a political leaders’ debate which had been set to air on Sunday after Johnson refused to appear on it.