General election 2019: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in TV debate

General election 2019: Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in TV debate

  • 6 December 2019
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Media captionThe BBC's Jon Kay takes you behind the scenes of the BBC election debate

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn will go head-to-head later for the final time during the election campaign when they take part in a live BBC One debate.

The hour-long programme, hosted by Today presenter Nick Robinson, starts at 20:30.

It will be the last time the Tory and Labour leaders share a stage before polling day on 12 December.

The BBC's Iain Watson said the two men were likely to focus on core messages to try and win over undecided voters.

Their policies on Brexit, the NHS and the economy are likely to come under scrutiny, as are issues of trust and character.

Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn will face questions from about 100 members of the public in Maidstone, Kent, and from those who have submitted them via the BBC News website.

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The Prime Ministerial Debate follows a head-to-head encounter on ITV earlier in the campaign, the two clashed on Europe, leadership and the future of Scotland.

This evening's debate between the two men who could be PM in a week from now could be crucial.

The opinion polls suggest the Conservatives are still comfortably ahead of Labour. So Boris Johnson is now the man - as was said of Tony Blair in 1997 - carrying the fragile vase across a shiny floor. He has to try his utmost not to slip up.

Jeremy Corbyn has one more prime-time opportunity to convince wavering voters he is fit to hold the keys to No 10.

Both men are likely to return to their core messages - Mr Johnson on Brexit, and Mr Corbyn on investing in public services and protecting the NHS.

But the Labour leader was handed a potential weapon in the unlikely form of the BBC inquisitor Andrew Neil.

On Thursday, Mr Neil challenged the PM to participate in an interview on the theme of trust.

Labour insiders are hopeful this can inflict more damage on the PM than they themselves have managed thus far. There have been concerns that some of the former voters are prepared to "back Boris rather than saying that they are defecting to the Conservatives".

So any ammunition that they can use to question Mr Johnson's character will be welcome.

It may well be tempting for Mr Corbyn to focus as much on the personality of his opponent as on his own policies.

Ahead of Friday's debate, senior Conservatives have dismissed opposition claims that Mr Johnson is "ducking" press scrutiny.

He has yet to agree to be interviewed by the BBC's Andrew Neil, who has questioned all the other main party leaders in a series of half-hour election specials.

Mr Johnson has also declined an invitation to take part in ITV series of leader interviews.

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Media captionWhat Andrew Neil wants to ask Boris Johnson

In a monologue at the end of Thursday's BBC programme - in which he had interviewed Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage - Mr Neil issued a challenge to Mr Johnson and listed a series of questions that he wanted to put to him.

"The theme running through our questions is trust - and why at so many times in his career, in politics and journalism, critics and sometimes even those close to him have deemed him to be untrustworthy," he said. "It is, of course, relevant to what he is promising us all now."

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Media captionIn their first TV encounter, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn locked horns over the NHS, Brexit and the Royal Family

But cabinet minister Michael Gove said the PM had given more than 100 interviews during the six-week campaign and Friday's encounter was the proper "arena" for voters to make up their mind who they wanted to be their next leader.

He told BBC Radio 5Live he could not recall any other PM agreeing to two one-to-one debates with the leader of the opposition during an election, saying: "It's an unprecedented level of scrutiny that the prime minister has allowed to happen."

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But Labour has accused the BBC of bias. In a letter to Director-General Tony Hall, its campaign co-ordinator Andrew Gwynne accused the corporation of being effectively "complicit in giving the Conservative Party an unfair electoral advantage".

He said Labour had agreed to Mr Corbyn's interview with Mr Neil based on the "clear understanding" that the Tory leader had agreed the same terms.

The BBC is expected to respond in writing to the Labour complaint, but a spokesperson said: "The BBC will continue to make its own independent editorial decisions, and is committed to reporting the election campaign fairly, impartially and without fear or favour."

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, who mounted an unsuccessful legal bid to be included in the ITV debate, claimed the PM's "cowardly behaviour shows why he simply isn't fit to be prime minister".

How can I follow the programme live?

It will be televised live in the UK on BBC One and on BBC iPlayer and streamed live on the BBC News website, which can be viewed from outside the UK, where you can also follow the latest reaction and analysis on our live page.

It will also be broadcast live on BBC Radio 5 Live and on the BBC Sounds app.

What are Johnson and Corbyn promising you?

Here's a concise guide to where the parties stand on key issues like Brexit, education and the NHS.

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