Johnson under pressure ahead of final UK election TV debate
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is preparing to take on opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the last head-to-head debate before a general election in six days — and facing allegations that he’s shirking tough questions about his character and record.
Friday’s televised showdown comes amid an ongoing controversy over Johnson’s decision to avoid an in-depth interview with Andrew Neil, a BBC journalist known for his forensic questioning. Four other party leaders, including Corbyn, endured such a grilling, and Neil has accused Johnson of “running scared.″
Neil issued a challenge to Johnson on national television Thursday, saying political leaders in the last two U.K. elections had agreed to be interviewed by him: “All of them. Until this one.”
He said Johnson needed to answer questions about 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.”
Cabinet minister Michael Gove, a Johnson ally, urged voters to call 10 Downing St. and ask whether Johnson would agree to the interview — even reading out the number for the prime minister’s office on LBC radio.
Johnson shrugged off the pressure, insisting he had done plenty of interviews during the campaign, and appeared to lump Neil in with a joke candidate in the election.
“We cannot accommodate everybody,” he said. “There’s guy called Lord Buckethead who wants to have a head-to-head debate with me. Unfortunately, I’m not able to fit him in.”
Johnson, a former mayor of London who helped lead the campaign to take Britain out of the European Union, has long faced questions about his character.