The BBC has been accused of “abject surrender” after confirming that Boris Johnson will be interviewed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.
It had been reported that the BBC had told the Prime Minister he would not be allowed to face Marr unless he also agreed to be interviewed by Andrew Neil too.
But in a statement, the corporation said: “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.”
But Labour candidates have accused the BBC of “abject surrender” in allowing the Prime Minister to be interviewed by Andrew Marr without agreeing to an interview with Andrew Neil too.
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.”
Jeremy Corbyn faced heavy questioning from Mr Neil on Tuesday – which saw the Labour leader criticised for failing to apologise for anti-Semitism in his party and the costings of the party’s plans.
It was only after that broadcast that the BBC admitted that it had yet to confirm a date with Mr Johnson.
On Wednesday, the BBC Press Office tweeted it was “in ongoing discussions with his team but we haven’t yet been able to fix a date” for the clash.
The same day Mr Johnson confirmed the talks were still taking place, but he said it was “not my job” to make the final decision.
He added: “Other people than me are responsible for those discussions and negotiations, and I do not want to pre-empt what they may decide.”
BBC sources insisted that they remained optimistic the prime minister will not be tempted to duck the challenge.