Conservative party leaders have threatened to review Channel 4’s broadcasting remit following the election after the broadcaster used an ice sculpture in place of Boris Johnson when he refused to take part in the climate debate.
Earlier this evening Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Scotland’s First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, the Green Party’s co-leader Sian Berry and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price sparred over how to address the climate emergency in the Channel 4 News #ClimateDeate. Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage both refused to attend.
As it became apparent Channel 4 was going to replace the PM with an ice sculpture, the Conservatives sent Michael Gove and the PM’s father Stanley Johnson to avoid the negative optics, but the other party leaders refused to debate anyone but the Conservative leader Boris Johnson.
Conservative spokesman Lee Cain said he had written to regulator Ofcom to complain about the Channel 4 debate and demand an investigation into its “provocative partisan stunt” and accused Channel 4 of a “wider pattern of bias”.
Ben de Pear, the editor of Channel 4 News, said the decision to replace Johnson and Farage with ice sculptures was justified. “These two ice sculptures represent the emergency on planet Earth, not in any human form but are a visual metaphor for the Conservative and Brexit parties after their leaders declined our repeated invitations to attend tonight’s vital climate debate.”
Clive Lewis, the shadow Treasury minister, added: “Boris Johnson is a coward and a bully. He thinks he is born to rule and is so used to getting his own way that he turns nasty when anyone dares challenge him. Britain deserves a prime minister that has enough of a backbone to face up to scrutiny.”
Johnson was repeatedly asked to join leader’s climate debate on Channel 4, but refused to take part and put forward the Conservative Party’s “green credentials”, instead preferring carefully scripted photo opportunities and pre-scripted video promotions.
The climate debate is the latest in a series of opportunities for scrutiny Johnson has avoided. The PM is still refusing to commit to a one-to-one interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil, who recently caused Jeremy Corbyn such issues, and many believe he will either avoid the interview completely or wait until after most postal votes have been returned to prevent many members of the public from seeing how poorly he is expected to perform when put under pressure.
If Johnson fails to agree a date for the BBC interview, he will be the only major party leader to have hidden from the public to avoid Neil’s incisive questioning.