UK PM Race: UK politician Rishi Sunak's camp has accused rival Liz Truss of avoiding scrutiny as she pulled out of a planned interview.
Foreign Secretary Truss, who is the current frontrunner according to pre-poll surveys and bookie’s odds, was due to face tough questions from veteran BBC political journalist Nick Robinson in a one-on-one interview – already done by Sunak earlier this month. But the Cabinet minister pulled out of the interview hours before it was to air on Tuesday evening, with her team saying she could no longer spare the time.
"Liz Truss has cancelled her BBC One interview with Nick Robinson which was due to air this Tuesday evening (30th August) at 7 pm. Ms Truss’ team say she can no longer spare the time to appear on ‘Our Next Prime Minister’,” the BBC said in a statement.
"The other candidate for the Conservative leadership, Rishi Sunak, was interviewed by Nick on 10th August. We regret that it has not been possible to do an in depth interview with both candidates despite having reached an agreement to do so," it notes. Robinson himself took to Twitter to say he was “disappointed & frustrated” at the cancellation.
“It’s important that candidates face proper scrutiny so that [party] members and the public know what they are offering,” an unnamed ally of Rishi Sunak was quoted by ‘The Times’ as saying.
"Avoiding that scrutiny suggests either Truss doesn’t have a plan at all or the plan she has falls far short of the challenges we face this winter,” the ally said.
The newspaper notes that this is the second time that the Foreign Secretary has avoided an interview with a veteran broadcaster, after she refused to speak to Andrew Neil for a Channel 4 television show earlier in the contest. When the broadcaster recorded a 30-minute interview with the British
Indian former finance minister, he concluded the show with a challenge to Truss to follow Sunak.
The Opposition also criticised Truss backing out of Tuesday’s BBC interview, which comes just before the deadline for Tory members to register their online or postal ballots in the leadership contest by Friday evening.
"The British public don’t get a say in choosing the next Tory Prime Minister and now it seems Liz Truss wants to avoid any public scrutiny whatsoever,” said Labour Party shadow minister Conor McGinn.
“People will rightly conclude that she doesn’t want to answer questions about her plans for the country because she simply hasn’t got any serious answers to the big challenges facing our country,” he said.
The Liberal Democrats declared the Foreign Secretary was “running scared”.
"Liz Truss is running scared of the media and proper public scrutiny. How can she lead our country through an economic crisis when she can’t even cope with a basic media interview,” questioned Wendy Chamberlain, a senior party MP and chief whip.
“She wants to follow in (former British Prime Minister) Margaret Thatcher’s footsteps but she’s fallen at the first hurdle. She’s fighting for the highest office by answering the lowest number of difficult questions,” she said.
However, analysts believe it is a strategy to prevent rocking the boat while ahead in the polls – a similar tactic used by outgoing Prime Minister Johnson who refused an interview with Andrew Neil during the 2019 General Election and went on to secure a landslide majority for the Conservative Party.
Meanwhile, both candidates will face their final hustings event in London on Wednesday evening in an attempt to convince any remaining undecided Conservative Party members who are yet to cast their votes in the election. The winner between Sunak and Truss will be declared on Monday, to be followed by an audience with Queen Elizabeth II for a formal swearing in.