Boris Johnson dodges Andrew Neil interview as BBC agrees to Marr instead

PUBLISHED: 13:29 30 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:31 30 November 2019

Andrew Marr (left) and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson during filming for  The Andrew Marr Show. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA.

Andrew Marr (left) and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson during filming for The Andrew Marr Show. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

Boris Johnson has got his way and will be interviewed by Andrew Marr on Sunday, without having committed to a grilling from the BBC's most ferocious interviewer Andrew Neil.

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The BBC had initially refused to invite the prime minister onto Marr's show until he signed up to feature in a series of general election leader interviews with Neil, at which all leaders had been expected to make a showing.

But in an about-turn reportedly in reaction to the London terror attack on Friday, the BBC has now said "it is in the public interest" that Johnson be interviewed on Marr.

MORE: BBC refuses to have Boris Johnson on Andrew Marr show until he commits to Andrew Neil grilling

The decision has been branded "wrong" and "shameful" by rival parties.

The corporation said in a statement: "As the national public service broadcaster, the BBC's first priority must be its audience.

"In the wake of a major terrorist incident, we believe it is now in the public interest that the prime minister should be interviewed on our flagship Sunday political programme.

"All parties' election policy proposals must - and will - face detailed scrutiny from us and we continue to urge Boris Johnson to take part in the prime-time Andrew Neil interview as other leaders have done."

Labour candidates have accused the BBC of "abject surrender" in allowing the prime minister to be interviewed by Marr without agreeing to an interview with Neil.

Ben Bradshaw, a former Labour culture secretary and candidate in Exeter, tweeted: "This is a shameful & abject surrender by the BBC management, which will leave professional BBC journalists absolutely horrified and in despair with an organisation where morale is already at rock bottom."

In a tweet, Ilford North candidate Wes Streeting said: "I love the BBC and hate the regular attacks on its impartiality and the professionalism of its journalists, particularly when it has some of the very best in the business.

"But this decision is wrong. The BBC have been played by the Tory Leader and shouldn't dance to his tune."

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For his part, Johnson has repeatedly refused to commit to an interview with Neil, despite other party leaders agreeing to be quizzed.

The interview with Neil is a considerable risk, as his known to be the BBC's fiercest interrogator, and an encounter with Corbyn earlier in the week turned out to be highly damaging to his party.

Subsequent press conferences were overshadowed by the fact that in the interview Corbyn had refused four times to apologise anew to the Jewish community in the face of anti-Semitism accusations.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson is next to face a televised half-hour grilling from Neil on Wednesday December 4, with Brexit Party leader Farage taking his turn on Thursday December 5.

These follow the BBC's half-hour interviews with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Corbyn.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives and Labour have yet to confirm who will take part in an ITV seven-way debate on Sunday.

Farage will be taking part in the podium debate, the first time he has during the 2019 campaign.

Swinson, Sturgeon, Green co-leader Sian Berry and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price are all confirmed to be taking part.

However, representatives for Labour and the Conservatives are still to be decided.

Corbyn is scheduled to appear on Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday.

The parties took a step back from General Election campaigning following the London Bridge attack.

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