Boris Johnson too busy to do Andrew Neil interview, says James Cleverly
Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly has suggested Boris Johnson ducked an interview with the BBC's Andrew Neil because he was too busy.
The Prime Minister has faced criticism for not sitting down for the interview after Jeremy Corbyn agreed to do it. His refusal to be questioned by Mr Neil has led to accusations that he is running scared.
Mr Cleverly defended Mr Johnson during a visit to Wolverhampton, and said the Prime Minister has "had to do a lot of stuff".
He told the Express & Star: "What people forget, Boris has done over 120 interviews during the election, including with a lot of regional media rather than always just doing London.
"The other thing people forget, because it's a general election and he's the leader of the Conservative Party, he is still actually the Prime Minister and we've had a major terrorist incident, a NATO summit, he has had to do a lot of stuff and actually I think it's better that we spread the Prime Minister's time around the country a bit more.
"It can't always be about the big broadcasters in their studios in central London."
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Mr Cleverly denied Mr Johnson was avoiding scrutiny by not doing the interview, adding: "We hadn't agreed to do it. The fact that other party leaders decided to do that – that's up to them but as I say Boris has prioritised getting around the country talking to regional broadcasters and regional print."
Rising star Mr Cleverly said he believed the West Midlands, where the Tories are targeting several key marginals, would prove crucial to deciding whether his party will achieve a majority.
He said: "This is going to be the most unpredictable election. I've been hearing some really positive things on the doorstep both here in the city and around the rest of the West Midlands. But we can never know exactly whether that will turn into votes and those votes will turn into getting Conservative MPs elected.
"It is going to be tight and if I can get three new Conservative MPs I would love that and if we could do that it would be part of the extra nine seats we would need to get a majority.
Mr Cleverly dismissed Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell's pledge to end austerity in his first 100 days as a "pretty transparent pre-election bribe".
He added: "People aren't daft and they know things have to be paid for and I think instinctively they know they will be the ones who will be paying for it.
"I don't think I've met a single person who genuinely believes that either the Labour Party maths stacks up or somehow it will be paid for by these elusive billionaires and international companies.
"They know that a Labour Government means their taxes will go up and they see right through that.
"People here voted for Brexit. The Labour Party promised they would deliver Brexit and they haven't so people just don't believe the Labour Party anymore."
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