The Conservative Party has made an official complaint against Channel 4 after the broadcaster replaced the Prime Minister with an ice sculpture during a leaders’ debate on climate change.
Two ice sculptures were seen melting under the studio lights on top of lecterns where Boris Johnson and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage would have been standing during a head-to-head debate between party leaders on climate change on Thursday night.
The sculptures were described as “a metaphor for the Conservative and Brexit parities” after their leaders failed to show up on the program.
It comes after the Conservative Party “made a last ditch attempt” to include Michael Gove and Mr Johnson’s father, Stanley, in the debate, according to the broadcaster.
The editor of Channel 4 tweeted a photograph of Mr Gove and Mr Johnson trying to “argue their way on to the programme”.
Ben de Pear tweeted: “In a last ditch attempt @BorisJohnson has sent his two wing men best friend @michaelgove and dad Stanley Johnson to argue their way into a programme intended only for leaders. they were lovely and charming but neither are the leader #climatedebate”
Channel 4 had previously rejected the Tory Party’s offer of Mr Gove to replace Mr Johnson on the grounds that the debate was only to be held between leaders.
Presenter of the Channel 4 general election debate, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, tweeted: “It was kind of @michaelgove to turn up at @Channel4News tonight offering to come on the #climatedebate but the other party leaders will only debate other party leaders. We look forward to welcoming Mr Gove another time.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, Green Party leader Sian Berry, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price are all taking part in the debate.
The party wrote to the chairman of the Ofcom Election Committee to make a formal complaint about the debate, after Channel 4 instead used an ice sculpture in place of Mr Johnson.
Mr de Pear said: “These two ice sculptures represent the emergency on planet earth, not in any human form, but are a metaphor for the Conservative and Brexit parties after their leaders declined our repeated invitations to attend tonight’s vital climate debate.”
The letter says: “The Conservative Party has offered senior Cabinet Minister, Michael Gove (the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and formerly the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to be the representative of the Conservative Party.
“Channel 4 News has refused to accept this representative, and stated that they intend to ’empty chair’ the Conservative Party if the Prime Minister does not attend.
“This effectively seeks to deprive the Conservative Party of any representation and attendance at the Channel 4 News debate.”
It added: “It has even been reported that Channel 4 has commissioned an ice sculpture of the Prime Minister to represent the Conservative Party.
“Were this the case, this would represent a significant breach of the Code through such a provocative partisan stunt, which would itself constitute making a political opinion in its own right.”
Also ahead of the debate, a Conservative Party spokesman said: “We are deeply disappointed that Channel 4 News has conspired with Jeremy Corbyn to block the Conservatives from making the case for tackling climate change and protecting the environment in this evening’s debate.
“Under this Government, the UK was the first advanced economy in the world to legislate for a net zero target and we’ve reduced emissions faster than any other advanced economy while continuing to grow our economy.
“Broadcasters have important responsibilities to present a balanced debate representing all parties, and Michael Gove was well qualified to represent the Conservative position at this evening’s debate.”
Mr Farage tweeted a statement on why the party had not participated, writing: “We have no faith that the broadcaster will conduct this debate in a fair and objective way.
“Brexit is the defining issue of our age and the fact that Channel 4 does not want to discuss it speaks volumes about this broadcaster and its Remain position.”
During the debate itself, the candidates all committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions in the future.
Mr Corbyn said everything possible must be done to reach a 2030 net zero emissions target.
The Labour leader said: “I think we have to do everything we can to get to a 2030 net zero emissions target and we do that by investment in green energy jobs, solar, wind and wave power, we do that by creating jobs and transforming our energy consumption, by retrofitting homes to make them environmentally sustainable.”
He added: “I want to host COP26 next year to go further than Paris, so we can be leaders on the world stage in setting the agenda of achieving this degree of sustainability by 2030.”
Ms Sturgeon added that Scotland’s targets are “the toughest in the world” and that they are going “beyond what the Committee on Climate Change has said”.
Also calling for the 2030 target, Mr Price said it was a shame that Labour’s manifesto only pledged to get “the majority” of emissions down by 2030, and called on a future UK government to “show the same level of ambition” as other countries.
Ms Swinson said Liberal Democrats “believe it is absolutely possible to get there by 2045”.