Boris Johnson still not agreeing to Andrew Neil interview

PM said he was ‘perfectly happy’ to be questioned but has not set date for appearance

There is no sign that Boris Johnson will agree to an interview with Andrew Neil before the end of the election campaign, with both the BBC and the Conservatives simply saying that negotiations are ongoing.

With little over a week until polling day, the prime minister has still not set a date for his one-on-one interview on primetime television, despite every other party leader agreeing to take part.

On Friday the BBC insisted it would not allow Johnson to appear on its flagship politics programmes until he had agreed a time to sit down with Neil, only to relent following the London Bridge terror attack on the basis that the country should hear from its prime minister during a time of crisis.

Johnson duly appeared on Sunday’s edition of The Andrew Marr Show, where he insisted he was “perfectly happy to be interviewed by any interviewer called Andrew from the BBC” but there is still no confirmed date for the programme, with only a handful of potential slots available before polls open next Thursday.

Neil, who used to be Johnson’s boss at the Spectator, is perceived as one of the BBC’s toughest political interviewers. His head-to-head with Jeremy Corbyn created days of negative headlines for Labour over antisemitism and funding for Labour’s spending plans.

Corbyn’s team are furious that Johnson appears to be trying to avoid being put under similar scrutiny, insisting they were assured the prime minister had signed up for a similar interview before agreeing to put up their candidate. BBC sources strongly insist they never told Labour the prime minister was definitely confirmed before Corbyn’s appearance.

News websites such as MailOnline, which had taken the prime minister’s comments as confirmation that he would definitely be interviewed by Neil, were contacted by the Conservatives and have now toned down their headlines. Both the Conservatives and the BBC have played down any chance of the interview being confirmed imminently.

A BBC spokesperson reiterated its stance that it urged “Boris Johnson to take part in the prime-time Andrew Neil interview as other leaders have done”.

Although the prime minister’s appearances on Marr will have reached millions of people, a primetime weeknight interview with Neil would attract a substantially higher audience. But with the Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, scheduled to be interviewed by Neil on Wednesday night, and the Brexit party’s Nigel Farage on Thursday, there are just three slots available for the prime minister to appear next week.


Jim Waterson Media editor

The GuardianTramp

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