John McDonnell tells BBC ‘you are being played’ by Boris Johnson as he continues to dodge Andrew Neil interview

'He knows that Andrew Neil will take him apart,' Labour says

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
@ashcowburn
Friday 29 November 2019 11:28
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John Mcdonnell says BBC 'being played' by Boris Johnson

The BBC is being “played” by Boris Johnson over whether or not the prime minister will face an inquisition from presenter Andrew Neil, Labour has claimed.

Reacting furiously over the organisation’s admission they are “not yet able to fix a date”, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the Conservative leader was pushing the interview date beyond the postal vote returns.

It comes after Jeremy Corbyn was subject to a half-hour bruising interrogation on the same programme earlier this week on his tax plans, Brexit and handling of antisemitism allegations in Labour’s ranks.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr McDonnell claimed: “The reason he is doing it is because he thinks like, you know, his Bullingdon Club friends, that they’re above the rest of us.”

He continued: “That they don’t need to be held to account. They don’t need to be treated like the rest of us. And so what he’s doing now is he’s avoiding, he’s running scared.

“Because he knows that Andrew Neil will take him apart. He’s running scared. But even if he does it now, he’s played you because he’s pushing it after and later beyond the postal vote returns.”

An interview with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has already been conducted, and Mr Neil is to question both the Liberal Democrat and Brexit Party leader next week.

A Downing Street source said earlier this week that no interview date with the prime minister had been confirmed, and Mr Johnson’s team were still “in discussions” with the BBC.

Quizzed on whether he would appear on the programme next week as he appeared on LBC’s Nick Ferrari on Friday, Mr Johnson said: “I’m much happier frankly to talk about my policies, what we’re doing for the people of this country rather than endless debates about media and process.”

Referring to the decision of broadcaster Channel 4 to replace Mr Johnson’s podium with a melting ice sculpture – after he declined to appear at a leaders’ climate change debate – the Tory leader added: “We’ve already talked quite a lot about Channel 4 debate rather than talking about climate change.”

Tom Watson, the deputy Labour leader, also criticised the prime minister’s team for threatening to reassess Channel 4’s broadcasting licence if they win the general election.

"As you'll know, in 2014, Ofcom renewed Channel 4's main public service broadcasting licence until the end of 2024 so during the next parliament Ofcom will be reviewing it again,” he said.

"It is deeply concerning that a governing party would wish to restrict the free press. I'm urging you to call out this meddling and demand that whichever political party wins the next general election allows Ofcom to operate freely from political interference.

"We need a strong free press. But the Tories are restricting journalists. This campaign, Boris Johnson has banned The Daily Mirror from its battle bus, ducked the Andrew Neil interview and now attempted to bully Channel 4.”

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