General Election 2019: Andrew Neil ‘empty chairs’ Boris Johnson as the two main party leaders go head-to-head tonight

General Election 2019: Andrew Neil ‘empty chairs’ Boris Johnson as the two main party leaders go head-to-head tonight
Photo: BBC

Andrew Neil has torn into Boris Johnson for refusing to commit to a leader’s interview with him ahead of the general election.

Mr Johnson has been accused of “running scared” from scrutiny by avoiding his turn to have an in-depth questioning from the veteran broadcaster.

It comes after the Prime Minister also refused to take part in a sit down interview with Julie Etchingham, despite Jeremy Corbyn and all other major party leaders having already taking part.

With less than a week to polling day, Neil challenged Mr Johnson to finally agree to an interview on the theme of “trust” and why voters have “deemed him to be untrustworthy”.

Addressing viewers directly following his interview with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, Neil said he wanted to put “questions of trust” to the prime minister.

A clip of Neil’s address, posted to Twitter by BBC Politics, has already been viewed more than 4.4 million times, ahead of a primetime debate between Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn tonight.

Can he be trusted?

“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,” Neil told viewers.

“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.”

Neil said leaders’ interviews had been a key part of the BBC’s prime-time election coverage for decades, adding: “We do them on your behalf to scrutinise and hold to account those who would govern us. That is democracy.

“We’ve 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 the 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.”

When is the debate?

Mr Johnson is set to face Mr Corbyn in a live debate on BBC One at 8:30pm this evening.

It will be the second time the two leaders have gone head-to-head in the campaign, and with polls tightening, both will be looking to strike a decisive blow.

The debate, hosted by the Today presenter Nick Robinson, will last for an hour, and will be filmed in front of an audience of 100 people from Maidstone in Kent.

Read Benjamin Butterworth’s full report of Neil’s comments here.