BBC struggles to pin down Johnson for TV grilling

Boris Johnson will not attend the BBC's seven-way election debate on Friday and has not yet been pinned down for a half-an-hour grilling by prolific interviewer Andrew Neil, the corporation has revealed.

The broadcaster has announced two further one-on-one interviews in which Jo Swinson and Nigel Farage will take the hot seat alongside Mr Neil, and announced Friday's debate line-up, with Mr Johnson featuring in neither.

Facing questions on whether Mr Johnson is swerving the wrath of the broadcasting veteran, the BBC said they are in "ongoing discussions" with the Prime Minister's team" but "haven't yet been able to fix a date".

The news comes after Mr Corbyn faced a brutal questioning from Mr Neil on allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, where 0.1% of members have been reported.

Neither Mr Johnson nor Mr Corbyn will attend the BBC's seven-way election debate on Friday, the corporation said, with Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak replacing Mr Johnson, and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey subbing in for Mr Corbyn.

Liberal Democrat leader Ms Swinson will be in the hot seat to face a televised half-an-hour grilling from Mr Neil on Wednesday December 4, with Brexit Party leader Mr Farage taking his turn on Thursday December 5.

These follow the broadcasting giant's forensic half-hour interviews with Ms Sturgeon and Mr Corbyn earlier this week, with three million people tuning into BBC One on Tuesday night to see the Labour leader being pressed over allegations of anti-Semitism within his party.

Questioned on when Mr Johnson would face dissecting by Mr Neil, the BBC said: "We're in ongoing discussions with his team but we haven't yet been able to fix a date."

Mr Johnson is also set to snub the first ever election leaders' debate focusing on the climate crisis which will be broadcast on Channel 4 on Thursday November 28.

Although neither Mr Corbyn or Mr Johnson will feature in the BBC's seven-way debate on Friday, the leaders of the other two main parties, leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson and leader of the SNP Nicola Sturgeon, will both appear.

Also due to take part are leader of Plaid Cymru Adam Price, former leader of the Green Party and Green candidate for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas, and Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice.

The debate will take place on BBC One on Friday November 29 at 7.30pm, with Today programme presenter and former BBC political editor Nick Robinson hosting the event.

The BBC said the debate will be broadcast live from Cardiff and the format will see each of the panellists make short opening statements, which will then be followed by questions and debate.

At the end of the debate, all of the representatives will have the opportunity to make short closing statements.

Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn have already taken part in a head-to-head debate on ITV and a Question Time leaders' special on the BBC last week.

Some 6.7 million people tuned into the first two-way leaders' debate on ITV on Tuesday November 19.

A peak audience of 4.6 million watched Mr Johnson, Mr Corbyn, Ms Swinson and Ms Sturgeon battle a barrage of hostile questioning on the BBC's Question Time special on Friday November 22.