Boris Johnson 'playing' BBC over Andrew Neil interview, says McDonnell

Shadow chancellor says BBC should be annoyed that PM is avoiding Andrew Neil

The BBC is being “played” by Boris Johnson and should be angry about his foot-dragging on whether he will agree to an interview with Andrew Neil, Labour’s John McDonnell has said.

Labour has previously said Jeremy Corbyn took part in one of a series of one-on-one interviews with the journalist after the BBC told it that Johnson would definitely be doing a similar broadcast next week.

“He is playing the BBC. You should be annoyed,” McDonnell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “The reason he is doing this is because he thinks, like his Bullingdon friends, that they are above the rest of us, that they don’t need to be held to account, they don’t need to be treated like the rest of us,” he said, referring to the elite club of which Johnson and other senior Tories were members at Oxford University.

The shadow chancellor said Johnson was avoiding Neil, who is due to interview the Liberal Democrats’ Jo Swinson and the Brexit party’s Nigel Farage next week, because he knew that the broadcaster would “take him apart”.

“He’s running scared, but also, even if he does it now, he has played you. He is pushing it later and later beyond the postal vote returns. You are being played as the BBC and you should be as angry as we are,” he added.

A BBC source has strongly denied it told Labour that Johnson had confirmed.

The BBC has yet to confirm the date of the prime minister’s appearance, leading to Labour concerns that Johnson could be tempted to sidestep scrutiny from one of the broadcaster’s leading political interviewers.

McDonnell appeared to avoid confirming or denying that Labour had been given assurances that Johnson would take part. Asked if this had been the case, he said all the parties had “understood” there would be a sequence of interviews and he viewed it as “a matter of honour”.

Johnson has agreed to other broadcast events during the campaign, including last Friday’s Question Time special, and the Tories believe this will insulate him from the charge of cowardice even if they decide to skip the Neil interview.

Corbyn’s interview with the broadcaster resulted in widespread negative press coverage after the Labour leader declined to apologise directly over antisemitism in his party and was grilled over his proposed £58bn boost for women caught out by changes to the state pension age.


Ben Quinn

The GuardianTramp

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