The prime minster will face Andrew Marr on Sunday, the BBC have confirmed, despite reports that the broadcaster had previously refused to allow Boris Johnson onto the flagship political programme without accepting an interview with Andrew Neil.
The BBC said that due to Friday’s terror attack on London Bridge it was now deemed “in the public interest” for Marr to interview Johnson, even without his commitment to face a grilling from Neil as part of a series of one-to-one interviews with major political leaders ahead of the general election.
Two people were killed when a terrorist wearing a fake suicide vest attacked several members of the public on Friday afternoon.
The decision has been branded “shameful” by members of the opposition, as the row over Johnson’s refusal to appear on Neil’s programme continued.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was subjected to intense questioning by Neil earlier this week, and the leaders of the UK’s other major political parties had all either been interviewed or committed to dates next week.
The full statement from the BBC, released on Saturday morning, reads: “As the nation public service broadcaster, the BBC’s first priority must be to 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 interviews 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.”
The Prime Minister will be interviewed on tomorrow's Andrew Marr programme. Statement here. pic.twitter.com/BfICt0hNbT— BBC News Press Team (@BBCNewsPR) November 30, 2019
Jeremy Corbyn faced a grilling from Neil earlier this week on topics such as anti-Semitism, with members of the Labour Party claiming that their leader only agreed to the interview after being told Johnson would be subjected to similar questioning next week.
The Guardian reported on Friday that the BBC had strongly denied telling the Labour Party that Johnson had been confirmed.
Labour candidates responded with fury just minutes after the BBC released its statement on Saturday, with a former Labour culture secretary and Exeter candidate Ben Bradshaw tweeting that the decision was an “abject surrender”.
He wrote: “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.
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. https://t.co/mdMBK8HmWX— Ben Bradshaw (@BenPBradshaw) November 30, 2019
Ilford North candidate Wes Streeting also wrote: “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.”
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. https://t.co/OEout4LYTv— Wes Streeting (@wesstreeting) November 30, 2019
In an interview with the PA news agency on Friday, Johnson said he would continue to submit to “all kinds of inquisitions and interrogations” until polling day on December 12.
He said: “Here I am being interviewed by you, I don’t think I have barely stopped being interviewed by people since the election began and will continue to submit to all kinds of inquisitions and interrogations until polling day.”
Pressed on when he would do the Neil interview, Johnson replied: “I’m in discussion with all sorts of people about all sorts of interviews and look forward to doing many, many more.”
Asked again, he said: “I’m going to do many, many interviews over the course of the next few days and I’m sure that people are having all sorts of conversations right now about who I’m going to be talking to when and where and I look forward to it very much.”
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson will be in the hot seat to face a televised half-hour grilling from Neil on Wednesday December 4, with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage taking his turn on Thursday December 5.
These follow the BBC’s half-hour interviews with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Corbyn earlier this week, with three million people tuning in on Tuesday night to see the Labour leader face questions.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.