Why is there a row over which Andrew at the BBC interviews the PM?

A sit-down interview with the party leaders has become a prominent part of general election campaigns.

The tete-a-tete between a respected journalist and political leader can provide some of the stand-out moments of the campaign.

While they can be a prime-time opportunity to get the message out to voters, live interviews always carry some risks for politicians and can even derail a political campaign.

– Who has been interviewed?

General Election 2019
Andrew Neil with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn during a BBC interview (Jeff Overs/PA)

So far Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price have sat down for a tough 30-minute grilling with veteran journalist Andrew Neil.

Mr Corbyn faced tough questions about the party’s response to anti-Semitism and the Labour’s tax and spending plans.

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage are set to be interviewed next week.

However, Prime Minister and leader of the Conservatives Boris Johnson has yet to agree to a sit-down.

– What is happening instead?

Instead, Mr Johnson agreed to be interviewed by another veteran broadcaster, Andrew Marr, on the BBC’s flagship Sunday political show.

The BBC initially refused to allow this unless Mr Johnson also agreed to an interview with Mr Neil, however on Saturday confirmed the Prime Minister would be interviewed by Mr Marr on Sunday, without agreeing a date for an interview with Mr Neil.

In a statement, the broadcaster 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.”

– Who is angry?

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John McDonnell accused the Prime Minister of ‘running scared’ of being interviewed by veteran journalist Andrew Neil (Jacob King/PA)

After the BBC’s decision was announced on Saturday, former Labour culture secretary and candidate in Exeter Ben Bradshaw tweeted: “This is a shameful and 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.”

On Friday, Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused the Prime Minister of “running scared” of being interviewed by veteran journalist Mr Neil.

He said: “He knows that Andrew Neil will take him apart. He’s running scared. But even if he does it now, he’s played you because he’s pushing it later and later beyond the postal vote returns.”

– Who is Andrew Neil?

Shakeel Begg court case
Andrew Neil (Nick Ansell/PA)

Andrew Neil was the editor of The Sunday Times newspaper between 1983 to 1994 and became the founding chairman of Sky in 1988.

Since 2008, he has been chairman of Press Holdings Media Group, whose titles include The Spectator magazine.

In 2003 he started hosting the BBC’s Daily Politics and This Week shows.

Mr Johnson faced a tough grilling on trade from Mr Neil during the Conservative leadership election in the summer. It ended with Mr Johnson admitting he did not know what one of the key clauses in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) consisted of.

– Who is Andrew Marr?

Boris Johnson condemns threats to MPs but defends his use of language like “surrender act” #Marrhttps://t.co/rTWgTtH6ANpic.twitter.com/JJuiazoS1Q

— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) September 29, 2019

Andrew Marr started as a reporter at the Scotsman and went on to become editor of The Independent newspaper in 1996 until 1998.

He was appointed political editor of the BBC in 2000 until 2009. He took over presenting the BBC’s flagship Sunday morning political slot in 2005 after Breakfast With Frost after Sir David Frost retired.

Mr Johnson was most recently interviewed by Mr Marr during the Conservative Party conference where he was challenged on dismissing abuse fears of female MPs as “humbug” during a heated Commons debate.

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