Channel 4 debate: Boris Johnson replaced by ice sculpture

Frosty relations between Channel 4 and the Tories went sub zero tonight as the broadcaster replaced Boris Johnson with an ice sculpture in a climate change debate.

The Conservatives filed an official complaint to watchdog Ofcom after the decision to substitute the Prime Minister and fellow absentee Nigel Farage with dripping frozen water installations.

Channel 4 invited all the main political party leaders to take part in the election showdown on tackling the climate emergency, but Mr Johnson decline.

Tory sources threatened Channel 4 with a review after the election, if they win. 

And in a letter to Ofcom, the Tory communications director Lee Cain said the sculptures were a ‘provocative partisan stunt’.

‘It would be detrimental to the public interest and news reporting by public service broadcasters if such a wide spectrum of speaking and debate events could not take place, purely because of arbitrary requirements by broadcasters insisting on specific individuals attending,’ he wrote: 

‘This is part of a wider pattern of bias by Channel 4 in recent months. It follows Dorothy Byrne, Channel 4’s head of news and current affairs, making highly personal and unpleasant attacks on the Prime Minister at the Edinburgh Television Festival in August. 

‘I would be grateful if Ofcom could consider this matter with due urgency.’ 

And Conservative sources told the Daily Telegraph: ‘If we are re-elected we will have to review Channel 4’s public service broadcasting obligations.

‘Any review would of course look at whether its remit should be better focused so it is serving the public in the best way possible.’ 

During the tepid debate Jo Swinson admitted flying domestically, but blamed it on the UK’s ‘Victorian’ rail system.  

Host Krishnan Guru-Murthy said: 'We kept the invitations open to the leaders of the Conservative Party and the Brexit Party. 'They have not taken up their places ... yet'

Host Krishnan Guru-Murthy said: 'We kept the invitations open to the leaders of the Conservative Party and the Brexit Party. 'They have not taken up their places ... yet'

Host Krishnan Guru-Murthy said: ‘We kept the invitations open to the leaders of the Conservative Party and the Brexit Party. ‘They have not taken up their places … yet’

The ice sculpture that will replace the missing Boris Johnson during tonight's climate change debate

The ice sculpture that will replace the missing Boris Johnson during tonight's climate change debate

The ice sculpture that will replace the missing Boris Johnson during tonight’s climate change debate

Mr Corbyn used the debate to talk up Labour's green credentials and attack the Tories in the absence of Boris Johnson

Mr Corbyn used the debate to talk up Labour's green credentials and attack the Tories in the absence of Boris Johnson

Mr Corbyn used the debate to talk up Labour’s green credentials and attack the Tories in the absence of Boris Johnson 

An analysis of the Lib Dem leader’s expenses by the Mail on Sunday from summer 2017 until January this year showed she claimed for 77 flights to get the 400 miles to and from East Dumbartonshire at a total cost of £9,435. 

Ms Swinson claimed for only 23 rail journeys in the same period at a cost of £2,766. Trains run direct from Euston in London to Glasgow, close to her constituency, in around four-and-a-half hours. 

 Mr Johnson did not take part because of SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon‘s involvement. 

Swinson defends £10k flights between Scotland and London with blast at rail infrastructure

Jo Swinson defended her decision to fly from her Scottish constituency to London tonight during the climate change debate.

An analysis of the Lib Dem leader’s expenses by the Mail on Sunday from summer 2017 until January this year showed she claimed for 77 flights to get the 400 miles to and from East Dumbartonshire at a total cost of £9,435. 

Ms Swinson claimed for only 23 rail journeys in the same period at a cost of £2,766.

Appearing on Channel 4 tonight she admitted flying domestically but said she had not flown long haul for ‘a very long time’.

‘But I do fly domestically and that is because I represent a constituency 400 miles from London,’ she added.

‘At the moment we do not have good enough transport infrastructure, Victorian railway infrastructure, and we are in the 21st century. 

‘That is why we need investment in HS2 to bring domestic travel in the UK up to the standard we need.’

The PM has said he will not take participate in any debates with Ms Sturgeon in the run up to December 12 on the grounds that she is not standing to be an MP. 

The Tories put forward Michael Gove, the minister for the Cabinet Office, as a potential replacement for Mr Johnson. 

But that offer was shot down and the broadcaster this afternoon confirmed their chilly stand-ins. 

The show went ahead wit the two melting sculptures flanking the five party leaders who did take part. 

The hour-long Emergency On Planet Earth debate featured Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, Ms Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru’s leader Adam Price and Green co-leader Sian Berry. 

Beforehand, Channel 4 news editor Ben de Pear said: ‘These two ice sculptures represent the emergency on planet earth, not in any human form but are a visual metaphor for the Conservative & Brexit parties after their leaders declined our repeated invitations to attend tonight’s vital climate debate.’ 

As he introduced the politicians, host Krishnan Guru-Murthy said: ‘We kept the invitations open to the leaders of the Conservative Party and the Brexit Party. 

‘They have not taken up their places … yet.’ 

Mr de Pear also revealed that Mr Johnson’s ‘two wing men’, his father Stanley and Cabinet minister Michael Gove, to ‘argue their way in’, adding: ‘They were lovely and charming but neither are the leader.’ 

Boris Johnson, pictured today in Devon, is expected to snub tonight’s Channel 4 News debate on climate change

Jeremy Corbyn arriving for the live debate tonight in London. Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage both refused to appear alongside him

The practice of ’empty chairing’ politicians who fail to turn up to debates is well known but putting an ice sculpture on stage would take things to a whole new level.

PM refuses to commit to follow Corbyn into Andrew Neil grilling

Boris Johnson has refused to commit to an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil despite Jeremy Corbyn being grilled by the veteran journalist earlier this week.

The Prime Minister insisted he had ‘barely stopped being interviewed’ since calling the General Election and said that he would continue to submit to ‘all kinds of inquisitions and interrogations’ until polling day.

In an interview Mr Johnson was asked repeatedly whether he would be interviewed by Mr Neil.

He replied: ‘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 again, Mr Johnson said: ‘I’m in discussion with all sorts of people about all sorts of interviews and look forward to doing many, many more.’ 

A Tory source said the PM had been ‘offered’ as a guest on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, though insisted it was not instead of being quizzed by Mr Neil. 

The row between the Tories and Channel 4 over tonight’s debate comes after a senior executive at the broadcaster used a speech back in August this year to accuse Mr Johnson of being a ‘known liar’. 

As the stunt was unveiled the Conservatives issued a threat to the broadcaster, which is publicly owned but commercially funded.

A source told the Buzzfeed: ‘Broadcasting organisations are rightly held to a higher standard — and particularly Channel 4 which has a special role enshrined in legislation. 

‘Any review would of course look at whether its remit should be better focused so it is serving the public in the best way possible.’ 

Shadow Treasury minister, Clive Lewis accused Mr Johnson of being 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.’ 

Asked yesterday whether a Conservative minister, such as Mr Gove, could attend instead of Mr Johnson, a spokeswoman for Channel 4 News said: ‘Michael Gove is not the party leader.’

The leaders who do attend this evening are likely to face questions over the level of ambition and feasibility in their plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the UK to zero overall, and the date they have pledged to achieve it by. 

The Brexit Party's absent leader Nigel Farage will also be substituted for a frozen water installation after he also rejected an invitation to tonight's live programme

The Brexit Party's absent leader Nigel Farage will also be substituted for a frozen water installation after he also rejected an invitation to tonight's live programme

The Brexit Party’s absent leader Nigel Farage will also be substituted for a frozen water installation after he also rejected an invitation to tonight’s live programme.

The Tories are thought to have put forward Michael Gove, pictured in Norfolk yesterday, for tonight's debate but Channel 4 has shot down the offer

The Tories are thought to have put forward Michael Gove, pictured in Norfolk yesterday, for tonight's debate but Channel 4 has shot down the offer

The Tories are thought to have put forward Michael Gove, pictured in Norfolk yesterday, for tonight’s debate but Channel 4 has shot down the offer

Labour is forced to change election tactics after dramatic new poll gives PM a 68-seat majority- and leaves Barry Gardiner hoping for RAIN on polling day to keep voters home

Boris Johnson has warned Tory voters against complacency despite a shock new poll suggesting today that he will win a comfortable 68-majority at the general election that will allow him to get Brexit done.

Jeremy Corbyn was left desperately scrambling to change tactics after the huge YouGov analysis revealed Northern voters have been abandoning the Labour leader in droves.

The study suggested the Tories could smash Labour’s ‘red wall’ of traditional stronghold to win 359 seats out of 650 – up from 317 in the 2017 election and a comfortable 68 majority.

Mr Corbyn was found to secure just 211 seats, down from 262 two years ago – and only just above the historic disaster of 209 when the party was led by his left-wing hero Michael Foot.

However senior Tories led by the Prime Minister have been urging people not to take a win for granted.  

Speaking before the poll was released he told the Spectator : ‘The memory of 2017 is evergreen and people should be in no doubt that their vote matters.

‘There are no luxury votes in this election, if you want to prevent a Corbyn/Sturgeon coalition you must vote for the Conservatives.

‘If you want to get Brexit done then you must vote for the Conservatives otherwise, believe me, we’ll be back at the same situation we were in in 2017.’

Labour insiders admitted they had underestimated the willingness of Leave voters to switch to the Conservatives, and Mr Corbyn’s muddled stance – pledging to negotiate a new deal with the EU but then stay ‘neutral’ on it in a second referendum – was a real problem.

But Tories are also alarmed that the scale of the victory implied by the poll could be counterproductive with a fortnight still to go in the campaign – with fears wavering voters either will not turn out or back Labour assuming they cannot win.

 Mr Johnson’s Brexit mastermind Dominic Cummings warned that the contest on December 12 was might ‘tighter’ than it looks.

And Health Secretary Mattt Hancock said voting Tory was the only way of getting Brexit done. ‘For people to get that they need to vote Conservative,’ he said. 

Extraordinary, shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner this morning suggested Labour’s strategy was to hope that Tory supporters will not bother voting because of bad weather.

‘For those who were thinking of voting Conservative, I hope this poll gives them great comfort, they sit back they say ”I don’t need to go out and vote on polling day because it’s wet and it’s windy”,’ he told Sky News. 

A separate – much smaller – survey for ComRes found the Conservative advantage had narrowed to seven points. 

The YouGov research is closely watched because it accurately predicted in 2017 that former Prime Minister Theresa May would lose her majority – the only one to do so.

The YouGov ‘MRP’ analysis released yesterday evening showed Mr Johnson’s Conservative Party could win 359 seats out of 650, up from 317 in the 2017 general election

Boris Johnson greets members of the public in Plymouth today after an unveiling ceremony for a statue of Nancy Astor, the first female MP to take her seat in the Commons

Boris Johnson greets members of the public in Plymouth today after an unveiling ceremony for a statue of Nancy Astor, the first female MP to take her seat in the Commons

Boris Johnson greets members of the public in Plymouth today after an unveiling ceremony for a statue of Nancy Astor, the first female MP to take her seat in the Commons

The YouGov 'MRP' analysis released this evening showed Mr Johnson's Conservative Party could win 359 seats out of 650, up from 317 in the 2017 general election

The YouGov 'MRP' analysis released this evening showed Mr Johnson's Conservative Party could win 359 seats out of 650, up from 317 in the 2017 general election

The YouGov ‘MRP’ analysis released this evening showed Mr Johnson’s Conservative Party could win 359 seats out of 650, up from 317 in the 2017 general election

The estimated swing from 2017 showing a large Tory increase and significant decrease for the Labour party

The estimated swing from 2017 showing a large Tory increase and significant decrease for the Labour party

The estimated swing from 2017 showing a large Tory increase and significant decrease for the Labour party

Mr Corbyn (pictured today in Southampton) was found to secure just 211 seats, down from 262 two years ago - and only just above the historic disaster of 209 when the party was led by his left-wing hero Michael Foot

Mr Corbyn (pictured today in Southampton) was found to secure just 211 seats, down from 262 two years ago - and only just above the historic disaster of 209 when the party was led by his left-wing hero Michael Foot

Mr Corbyn (pictured today in Southampton) was found to secure just 211 seats, down from 262 two years ago – and only just above the historic disaster of 209 when the party was led by his left-wing hero Michael Foot

The YouGov analysis is based on a huge 100,000 sample. Unlike other techniques, it maps the results against profiles of each constituency to estimate how the parties are faring in each area.

Although it is far from certain, experts believe it is one of the best ways of estimating how an actual election would play out. 

The Liberal Democrats on 13 seats, are only up one from the last election, despite a predicted increase in vote share from 8 per cent in 2017 to 14 per cent.

Dominic Cummings warns election ‘much tighter’ than it looks 

Dominic Cummings has warned the election is ‘much tighter’ than the polls suggested – saying there is a ‘very real possibility of a hung parliament’.

Boris Johnson’s Brexit mastermind said Jeremy Corbyn was plotting to ‘cheat’ a second referendum by handing votes to millions of foreign nationals. 

If Mr Johnson does not secure a majority, Mr Corbyn would enter No 10 ‘propped up’ by the SNP‘s Nicola Sturgeon and the two leaders would then ‘rig’ a second referendum, he added.

As well as allowing ‘millions of foreign votes’, Mr Cummings said Mr Corbyn would draw up a referendum question that amounted to ‘Remain vs Remain’.

Mr Cummings resigned as a No10 special adviser at the start of the election campaign, but could be reapointed if Mr Johnson wins. 

Those standing as independents such as Anna Soubry, David Gauke, Gavin Shuker, Frank Field and Dominic Grieve, are also set to lose out. 

In Scotland, the SNP are set to get 43 seats, an increase of 8, but vitally for Mr Johnson only two come from his party.

If the election had been held yesterday, Wales’ Plaid Cymru and the Green Party would remain static with four seats and one seat respectively. 

The modelling shows Mr Johnson would comfortably keep hold of his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat, but that Zac Goldsmith could be on course to lose Richmond Park. 

The analysis shows that most of the seats changing are ones that Labour won in 2017 – but could now be taken by the Tories.

The Conservatives would have picked up Tom Watson’s vacated seat and Caroline Flint’s Don Valley seat.

They could also have claimed Tony Blair’s previous Sedgefield seat and Norman Lamb’s seat in North Norfolk.

Of the 76 Labour-held seats where they lead the Tories by fewer than 8,000 votes, Mr Corbyn’s party is behind in 43 of them, according to the analysis.

Chancellor Sajid Javid insisted today that the party would not be complacent.

On a visit to Darlington, he said: ‘I’m not interested in any polls except the one that’s going to happen on December 12.

‘We are going to go out there and fight for every single vote.’ 

As the party reeled from the poll today, there were claims its campaign is being shifted, particularly in Leave-voting areas.

Labour insiders told the BBC a key mistake had been overestimating the electoral threat from the Liberal Democrats, and underestimating the likelihood of Leave voters switching to the Conservatives.

Labour’s strategy so far has been emphasise that the election is about more than Brexit and to get voters to focus on issues which would unite Labour voters in Leave and Remain areas.

The new plan is designed to appeal to those who voted for Brexit, and to try to convince them that Labour is not attempting to stop the UK leaving the EU by offering another referendum.

Shadow cabinet members who back a Leave deal rather than Remain will have a higher profile in the final two weeks of the campaign.

Mr Corbyn and party chairman Ian Lavery, who favours leaving the EU with a deal, will tour Leave areas to try to explain the deal Labour wants to negotiate and emphasise that they will protect workers’ rights. 

But a veteran Labour aide told MailOnline that Mr Corbyn himself, rather than the Brexit position, was the biggest problem.

‘He is just sh**,’ they said. ‘We need to go back to year zero. I just want them to get hammered. 

‘It needs to be over. We are nine years into Tory austerity. Corbyn is just a disastrous leader. 

‘It is typical Labour – always giving people an excuse not to vote for us. ”You don’t like the Tories? Oh, well, we’ve just made Jeremy Corbyn party leader.”’  

A Tory candidate defending a Northern seat that used to be a marginal told MailOnline they currently expected to have more than 55 per cent of the vote.

‘Labour are in deep do-do in the North,’ they said. 

If the election was held on Thursday, the Tories would return to parliament with a significant majority according to YouGov analysis

If the election was held on Thursday, the Tories would return to parliament with a significant majority according to YouGov analysis

If the election was held on Thursday, the Tories would return to parliament with a significant majority according to YouGov analysis

Mr Johnson was campaigning in Devon today with two weeks to go until polling day

Mr Johnson was campaigning in Devon today with two weeks to go until polling day

Mr Johnson was campaigning in Devon today with two weeks to go until polling day

The Labour Party looks on track to secure 211 seats, down from 262 in the 2017 election. Jeremy Corbyn is pictured in

The Labour Party looks on track to secure 211 seats, down from 262 in the 2017 election. Jeremy Corbyn is pictured in

The Labour Party looks on track to secure 211 seats, down from 262 in the 2017 election. Jeremy Corbyn is pictured in 

The model currently shows none of the MPs who have defected to the Lib Dems in recent months winning the seats in which they are standing. 

Among the defectors from the Conservatives, Sarah Wollaston is 19 points behind in Totnes, Antoinette Sandbach is trailing by 33 points in Eddisbury, Philip Lee is down by 10 points in Wokingham, and Sam Gyimah is 8 points adrift in Kensington.

The three Labour defectors are also struggling. Chuka Umunna is 13 points behind in Cities of London and Westminster, Luciana Berger is 18 points back in Finchley and Golders Green, and Angela Smith is trailing by 33 points in Altrincham and Sale West. 

Labour’s ‘Red Wall’ looks set to crumble  

Here are some of the Labour strongholds that would fall according to the new YouGov analysis:

Ashfield 

Barrow & Furness 

Bassetlaw 

Bedford 

Bishop Auckland 

Blackpool South 

Bolsover 

Bury South 

Clwyd South 

Colne Valley 

Crewe & Nantwich 

Dagenham & Rainham 

The pound rose sharply on news of Boris Johnson’s predicted majority.

However it is worth noting that there could be local elements in play in these seats, which the model might not be picking up. 

The margins of error in the model put the Conservatives seat projection between 328 and 385, YouGov said, adding that there was still more than sufficient time for people to change their minds before Dec. 12 – the first Christmas election in nearly a century.

In a blog, Mr Cummings has warned the election is ‘much tighter’ than the polls suggested – saying there is a ‘very real possibility of a hung parliament’.

Boris Johnson’s Brexit mastermind said Jeremy Corbyn was plotting to ‘cheat’ a second referendum by handing votes to millions of foreign nationals. 

If Mr Johnson does not secure a majority, Mr Corbyn would enter No 10 ‘propped up’ by the SNP‘s Nicola Sturgeon and the two leaders would then ‘rig’ a second referendum, he added.

As well as allowing ‘millions of foreign votes’, Mr Cummings said Mr Corbyn would draw up a referendum question that amounted to ‘Remain vs Remain’.

Mr Cummings resigned as a No10 special adviser at the start of the election campaign, but could be reapointed if Mr Johnson wins.  

Chris Curtis, political research manager for the pollster, said: ‘YouGov’s official election MRP model currently shows the Tories with a comfortable majority with almost all of those coming at the expense of Labour in the North and Midlands.

‘As expected, the key thing deciding the extent to which each of these seats is moving against Labour are how that seat voted in the European Union referendum.

The Liberal Democrats on 13 seats, are only up one from the last election, despite a predicted increase in vote share from 8 per cent in 2017 to 14 per cent

The Liberal Democrats on 13 seats, are only up one from the last election, despite a predicted increase in vote share from 8 per cent in 2017 to 14 per cent

The Liberal Democrats on 13 seats, are only up one from the last election, despite a predicted increase in vote share from 8 per cent in 2017 to 14 per cent

‘In the seats that voted most strongly to Leave in 2016 (60 per cent or more in favour of departing the EU), the swing to the Conservatives is over 6 per cent.

‘This is allowing the Tories to overturn quite substantial majorities in places like West Bromwich East, the seat held until recently by Tom Watson, and Don Valley, the seat currently held by Caroline Flint.

‘The only silver lining for Labour is that there are still 30 seats where it is currently 5% or less behind the Tories. If it can manage to squeeze the gap over the coming fortnight it may be able to paste over the cracks in their so-called Red Wall. 

‘But with just two weeks to go, time is running out for Labour.’

 

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