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.
It comes after the party “made a last ditch attempt” to include Michael Gove and Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley, in the debate, according to the broadcaster.
The editor of Channel 4, which is hosting a head-to-head debate between party leaders on climate change on Thursday night, 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.
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.”