Nick Robinson: why did Liz Truss cancel interview with BBC journalist ahead of Prime Minister contest?
The Foreign Secretary is up against former chancellor Rishi Sunak in the race to succeed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.
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The Tory leadership candidate, who is currently in a head-to-head race with Rishi Sunak to become the next resident of Number 10 Downing Street, was due to be interviewed by Mr Robinson in a programme airing this evening (30 August).
However, the South West Norfolk MP has since cancelled the interview, with the BBC releasing a statement on the topic yesterday (29 August).
So why did Ms Truss cancel her interview with the BBC, and what has the reaction been?
Why did Liz Truss cancel the interview?
The Foreign Secretary has not yet publicly addressed the cancellation of the scheduled interview - but the BBC has reported that the reason given was she did not have the time.
A source from Ms Truss’s campaign meanwhile told the PA Media that she is not participating in the interview as she is focused on winning as many votes as possible and on preparations for government.
What did the BBC say?
The BBC released a statement after the Tory leadership hopeful cancelled her interview.
It said: “Liz Truss has cancelled her BBC One interview with Nick Robinson, which was due to air this evening (30th August) at 7pm.
“Ms Truss’ team say she can no longer spare the time to appear on Our Next Prime Minister.”
The statement also included a mention of the former chancellor, who was previously interviewed by Mr Robinson.
The BBC continued: “The other candidate for the Conservative [Party] leadership, Rishi Sunak, was interviewed by Nick on 10 August.
“We regret it has not been possible to do an in-depth interview with both candidates, despite having reached agreement to do so.”
Meanwhile, Mr Robinson wrote on Twitter: “I was pleased to secure an in-depth interview with @trussliz on BBC1.
“I am disappointed & frustrated it’s been cancelled.”
What has Rishi Sunak said?
The Richmond MP’s campaign team has accused Ms Truss of avoiding public scrutiny in the lead-up to the announcement of the UK’s next Prime Minister.
A source said: “It’s important that candidates face proper scrutiny so that members and the public know what they are offering.
“Avoiding that scrutiny suggests either Ms Truss doesn’t have a plan at all or the plan she has falls far short of the challenges we face this winter.”
The source added that a tally they have taken shows the Foreign Secretary has taken part in just two broadcast interviews during the campaign battle, while Mr Sunak has undertaken nine.
This includes three appearances on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, in addition to an appearance on ITV’s The Morning.
He was also interviewed by Mr Robinson earlier this month.
What about Labour and the Liberal Democrats?
Wendy Chamberlain, the Liberal Democrats’ chief whip, said: “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?”
Ms Chamberlain also claimed that Ms Truss “wants to follow Margaret Thatcher’s footsteps,” but has “fallen at the first hurdle.”
The Lib Dem Chief Whip continued: “She’s fighting for the highest office by answering the lowest number of difficult questions.”
Labour also criticised the Tory leadership candidate’s last minute cancellation.
Conor McGinn, the Shadow Minister without Portfolio, said: “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.
“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.”
When is the next Prime Minister announced?
This is after Tory party members have voted on their favourite candidates, with voting closing on 2 September.
Ms Truss has been widely tipped as the frontrunner in the race, but has also been widely criticised for her comments on the cost of living crisis - in which she has frequently ruled out increased financial aid for low-income families and vulnerable households.
The leadership contest was triggered after Boris Johnson resigned from office, following a number of political scandals.