Opponents attack Johnson’s character as UK election looms

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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson tries some cider as he visits Healey's Cornish Cyder Farm during the General Election campaign, in Callestick, England, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019. Britain goes to the polls on Dec. 12. (Dan Kitwood/Pool Photo via AP)

LONDON – Britain’s opposition parties intensified attacks on Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday with two weeks to go until election day, as polls suggested the U.K. leader’s Conservatives have a substantial lead.

Johnson was accused of running scared of scrutiny after he declined to take part in a debate alongside his main opponent, Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party, and other party leaders, and refused to commit to a one-on-one TV interview.

For Thursday’s climate change-themed debate, broadcaster Channel 4 put Earth-shaped ice sculptures atop podiums in place of Johnson and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who also declined to appear.

With most polls showing a double-digit lead for Johnson’s Conservatives, the party is keen to limit the prime minister’s opportunities for gaffes and slip-ups.

As well as skipping the climate debate, Johnson is the only main leader not to have agreed — so far — to a one-on-one interview with BBC journalist Andrew Neil. Corbyn was subjected to an intense grilling by Neil earlier this week about allegations of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.

The Conservatives complained to Britain’s broadcast regulator after Channel 4 refused to let another government minister appear instead of Johnson at the climate debate. The channel said it was a leaders-only event.

Those taking part promised to slash Britain’s carbon emissions to zero, though the parties have set different target dates: 2030 in the case of the Green Party, “within the 2030s” for Labour and 2045 for the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party. The Conservatives say they will do it by 2050.

Johnson insisted Thursday that he would do “many, many interviews over the course of the next few days and I'm sure that people are having all sorts of conversations right now about who I'm going to be talking to, when and where, and I look forward to it very much."