The BBC’s Andrew Neil has issued a challenge to Conservative leader Boris Johnson to take part in a half-hour general election interview with him.
Boris Johnson is the only one of the main party leaders not to agree to face a half-hour, prime-time BBC One grilling by Andrew Neil.
As is his want Boris Johnson denies claims he is avoiding scrutiny.
Andrew Neil addressed Boris Johnson directly at the end of his fourth leader interview at this election, with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.
“And that concludes our fourth leaders’ interview for the general election of 2019. There is, of course, still one to be done. Boris Johnson. The prime minister.
“We have been asking him for weeks now to give us a date, a time, a venue. As of now, none has been forthcoming.
“No broadcaster can compel a politician to be interviewed.
“But leaders’ interviews have been a key part of the BBC’s prime-time election coverage for decades. We do them, on your behalf, to scrutinise and hold to account those who would govern us. That is democracy.
“We have always proceeded in good faith that the leaders would participate. And in every election they have. All of them. Until this one.
“It is not too late. We have an interview prepared. Oven-ready, as Mr Johnson likes to say.
“The theme running through our questions is trust – and why at so many times in his career, in politics and journalism, critics and sometimes even those close to him have deemed him to be untrustworthy.
“It is, of course, relevant to what he is promising us all now.
“Can he be trusted to deliver 50,000 more nurses when almost 20,000 in his numbers are already working for the NHS?
“He promises 40 new hospitals. But only six are scheduled to be built by 2025. Can he be believed when he claims another 34 will be built in the five years after that?
“Can he be trusted to fund the NHS properly when he uses a cash figure of an extra £34bn? After inflation the additional money promised amounts to £20bn.
“He vows that the NHS will not be on the table in any trade talks with America.
“But he vowed to the DUP, his Unionist allies in Northern Ireland, that there would never be a border down the Irish Sea. That is as important to the DUP as the NHS is to the rest of us. It is a vow his Brexit deal would seem to break.
“Now he tells us he’s always been an opponent of austerity. We would ask him for evidence of that.
“And we would want to know why an opponent of austerity would bake so much of it into their future spending plans.
“We would ask why, as with the proposed increase in police numbers, so many of his promises only take us back to the future. Back to where we were before austerity began.
“Social care is an issue of growing concern. On the steps of Downing Street in July he said he’d prepared a plan for social care. We’d ask him why that plan is not in his manifesto.
“Questions of trust. Questions we’d like to put to Mr Johnson so you can hear his replies. But we can’t. Because he won’t sit down with us.
“There is no law, no Supreme Court ruling that can force Mr Johnson to participate in a BBC leaders’ interview.
“But the prime minister of our nation will, at times, have to stand up to President Trump, President Putin, President Xi of China. So it was surely not expecting too much that he spend half an hour standing up to me.
Such a refusal to submit to unscripted public scrutiny is unprecedented.
What are we to infer from this avoidance of public scrutiny and accountability?
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage have all faced a grilling by Mr Neil.
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Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.