The BBC went to war with Boris Johnson this afternoon after the Prime Minister hinted the licence fee could be axed in the ‘long term’. Mr Johnson made the comments as he stepped up his bid to keep the keys to 10 Downing Street with an attempt to smash Labour’s ‘red wall’ of Leave-voting seats
The BBC went to war with Boris Johnson this afternoon after the Prime Minister hinted the licence fee could be axed in the ‘long term’.
Mr Johnson made the comments as he stepped up his bid to keep the keys to 10 Downing Street with an attempt to smash Labour’s ‘red wall’ of Leave-voting seats in its heartlands.
But Mr Johnson’s remarks sparked a swift response from the national broadcaster as it said in a statement that its current funding model was the best one available.
A BBC spokesman said: ‘As we’ve said before, the licence fee ensures a universal BBC which serves everyone, is the most popular funding system among the public and is agreed as the method of funding the BBC for another eight years.’
On a visit to Sunderland, the PM said he was ‘looking at’ the future of the annual £154.50 levy saying the existing funding mechanism might not ‘make sense in the long term’.
Despite stopping short of a formal commitment or policy announcement, he questioned whether the corporation should be funded from ‘general taxation’ when other organisations raised money by commercial means.
The comments came as the premier pushed on with a blitz of Labour’s northern strongholds, just three days before the crucial election showdown.
Victory for Mr Johnson is likely to depend on him winning over voters who have not backed the Tories for generations, and he today insisted he is taking ‘nothing for granted’.
On a visit to Sunderland this afternoon, the PM said he was ‘looking at’ the future of the annual levy saying the funding mechanism might not ‘make sense in the long term’
Boris Johnson chatted happily with workers at a fish market in the key target seat after delivering a stark warning that Jeremy Corbyn has ‘betrayed’ Brexit supporters
Mr Johnson was fishing for votes as he stepped up his campaign to smash Labour’s ‘red wall’ of Leave-voting heartlands in Grimsby today
Another poll today suggests the Tories still have a significant advantage, with Survation research for ITV’s GMB putting the party 14 points ahead of Labour
John McDonnell today used a speech in London to pledge that kicking off the party’s huge plans for the state to take ownership of water, energy, rail and even broadband would be a key priority in Labour’s first 100 days
Mr Johnson risked breaking his own rule against making policy ‘on the hoof’ as he waded into the debate over the BBC’s future.
Fielding questions from factory workers in Sunderland, Mr Johnson criticised the Labour Party for sneering at the values of Leave voters and ignoring their core supporters.
But asked by one worker whether he was planning to do away with the licence fee, Mr Johnson seemed to depart from his script.
‘At this stage we are not planning to get rid of all TV licences, though I am certainly looking at it,’ he said.
‘What I will say is that – I’m under pressure not to extemporise policy on the hoof.
‘But you have to ask yourself whether that kind of approach to funding a media organisation still make sense in the long term, given the way other organisations manage to fund themselves. That’s all I will say.
‘I think the system of funding out of what is effectively a general tax – everybody has a TV – bears reflection, let me put it that way.
DUP accuse Boris Johnson of breaking his word over Brexit deal
Boris Johnson’s former DUP allies have accused him of breaking his word over the Brexit deal.
Unionist leader Arlene Foster, who propped up Theresa May in power after the 2017 election, warned that the party would be ‘once bitten twice shy’.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether the PM’s deal was a ‘betrayal’, Ms Foster said: ‘I think it is right for the leadership of unionism in Northern Ireland to try to work with the prime minister of the day to get the best deal for Northern Ireland.
‘We will always do that. We will continue to do that.
‘I think it says more about the person who broke their word than me and the leadership of the… Democratic Unionist Party.’
‘How long can you justify a system whereby everybody who has a TV has to pay to fund a particular set of TV and radio channels? That is the question.’
The remarks follow a series of bruising spats with the BBC and other broadcasters during the election battle.
Veteran interrogator Andrew Neil issued a direct challenge to Mr Johnson after he refused to grant an interview during the campaign.
The video of Mr Neil’s challenge then wne viral online as hundreds of thousands of people watched it.
Senior Tory sources vented fury at the pressure tactic, saying they were not bound to take part in ‘tired’ formats as they also cited constant interruptions during interviews as a reason for not accepting the challenge.
The BBC licence fee has often been criticised by Tories, who point to the commercial models for other online providers such as Netflx – as well as ITV and Sky.
The corporation and the government have been at daggers drawn over who should fund free TV licences for pensioners.
The decision on whether to offer the benefit to over-75s was shifted to the BBC when George Osborne was chancellor, and the broadcaster has announced that the policy will be dropped from January.
Over the coming days, Mr Johnson will visit every region of England and Wales, including West Yorkshire, Cheshire, Leicestershire, East Anglia, North Wales and the South West.
His aides believe these to be the areas that will decide the outcome of the election.
Mr Johnson is hammering home the promises made during the 2016 referendum campaign – including that of ending ‘uncontrolled and unlimited immigration’.
But his central message will be a condemnation of Remain-backing MPs who vowed at the last election to deliver Brexit but ‘shamefully did the exact opposite’.
‘Parliament has bent every rule and broken every convention as it has delayed, diluted and denied Brexit,’ he said. ‘They won their seats on a false prospectus and then stuck two fingers up to the public.
‘Now they are proposing another referendum – this time rigging the result by extending the franchise to two million EU citizens.
‘It’s been the Great Betrayal, orchestrated from Islington by politicians who sneer at your values and ignore your votes.’
Mr Johnson laughed off boos and cheers as he posed with some of the produce, and for selfies
Mr Johnson (pictured at Doncaster airport today) has insisted he is taking ‘nothing for granted’
Mr Corbyn was in Bristol today where he tried to revive his flagging campaign with a rally to the faithful in the Remain stronghold
Although still ahead in the polls, Tory strategists argue the election is ‘closer than many people think’.
They warn Mr Corbyn will become PM if the SNP and the Lib Dems pick up a handful of extra seats.
Speaking to reporters in Grimsby this morning, Mr Johnson said: ‘We’re taking nothing for granted, we’re working very, very hard across the whole country and I think it’s a message of unity of bringing this amazing United Kingdom together.
‘If we can get Brexit done then we can move forward with investments in infrastructure, education and technology that will unleash opportunity across the whole country.
‘It’s a message that makes sense whether you’re working in the arts and financial services in London or fishing in Grimsby or the arts and financial services in Grimsby.’
Sunderland is a Labour citadel but six in ten voters supported Leave in 2016. It was one of the earliest declarations on referendum night – and gave an early sign that many traditional Labour areas were backing Brexit.
There Mr Johnson said: ‘It’s now been 1,264 days since Sunderland’s roar was heard on the night of 23 June 2016 – 1,264 days in which Parliament should have delivered what you voted for, taken us out of the EU, and addressed all the reasons you voted so decisively for change.
‘You voted to leave the EU because you wanted to stop sending the EU money we could spend at home, to end uncontrolled and unlimited immigration from the EU, to take back control from an unelected elite in Brussels – and to force politicians in Westminster to listen to you, not just London and the South East.
‘Instead we have had 1,264 days of dither and delay, prevarication and procrastination, obfuscation and obstruction.’
The Prime Minister is trying to storm a ‘Red Wall’ of around 80 constituencies – stretching from North Wales to Yorkshire – that have voted Labour for decades.
He warned that if there is another hung parliament, Mr Corbyn and Miss Sturgeon would ‘conspire to frustrate Brexit again’.
John McDonnell boasts Labour will trigger £200bn mass nationalisation project within WEEKS of taking power
Labour will launch its mass nationalisation project within weeks of taking power, John McDonnell boasted today.
The shadow chancellor pledged that kicking off huge plans for the state to take ownership of water, energy, rail and even broadband will be a key priority in the party’s first 100 days in government.
‘We’re setting our sights higher than any opposition party has ever done before – and we’re doing that because we have to,’ he said at a campaign event in London.
Mr McDonnell also announced that if Labour is victorious at the ballot box on Thursday he will hold his first budget as chancellor on February 5.
The shadow chancellor said that budget would ‘save the NHS’ and end austerity ‘once and for all’.
Mr McDonnell revealed that if he becomes chancellor on Friday he will hold his first budget on February 5
Mr McDonnell’s focus on the party’s nationalisation plans – which come with a price tag of many tens of billions of pounds and which businesses warn would take the country back to the 1970s – came as Labour desperately tried to overhaul the Tories’ poll advantage with just three days to go until the election.
Boris Johnson today warned that the outcome on Thursday is closer than it looks – and Conservatives should take ‘nothing for granted’.
What would be in Labour’s first budget?
John McDonnell announced today that his first Budget as chancellor would take place on February 5.
That is the moment when Mr McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn would fully commit to Labour’s eye-wateringly expensive spending plans which the Tories claim could bankrupt Britain.
Here are the headline items which Mr McDonnell said would be included:
Put more money into an emergency package of reforms to Universal Credit while Labour designs a replacement welfare system at a cost of billions of pounds.
Introduce a Real Living Wage of £10 per hour for all workers over the age of 16 – a move businesses fear could lead to job losses.
Provide funding for a five per cent pay rise for all public sector workers.
Enacting the department spending plans promised in Labour’s ‘Grey Book’, putting billions more into schools, hospitals and social care amid concerns about where the party would find the money.
In a speech this morning, Mr McDonnell tried to convince voters that Labour would be able to deliver its huge promises to pump billions into public services, higher benefits and offers such as universal free broadband and scrapping tuition fees without raising taxes for ordinary people.
The party has also promised a £58billion handout for women pensioners born in the 1950s – a vow that was not included in the manifesto and would be funded from unspecified sources.
Mr McDonnell said this morning that the first priority of a Labour government would be ending austerity.
He stressed the importance of ‘getting money moving out of Whitehall and the City’ in order to deliver the party’s hard-Left goals, with a National Transformation Unit established before Christmas.
Negotiations on a new Brexit deal with the EU would also be started before the New Year.
But Jeremy Corbyn has said he will not back his own theoretical package in the second referendum the party wants to hold, with the leader adamant he would remain neutral.
The shadow chancellor said Labour had ‘already started our meetings with the Treasury’ to make sure officials are ready to implement the party’s plans on Friday if Mr Corbyn wins a majority.
Mr McDonnell claimed the ‘publicly-owned and democratically run utilities’ the party is proposing would become ‘institutions that we will come to cherish and rely on, like the NHS’.
He also revealed that the party’s state-ownership plans would give ordinary people a say in how industries are run through the creation of so-called ‘People’s Assemblies’.