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General election news – live: Storm over Boris Johnson comments about free NHS, single mothers and Nigerians, as PM refuses to agree to Andrew Neil interview

Boris Johnson has been accused of “running scared” of an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil, after it emerged that he is the only major party leader not to agree a date for a grilling.

It comes as a polling model released by YouGov shows the Tories on course to win 359 seats in parliament, giving Mr Johnson a comfortable majority of 68. Jeremy Corbyn is understood to be changing tack in Labour’s campaign, particularly in Leave-voting areas, following the analysis.

Labour attacked the PM’s “dark ages” attitudes after highlighting remarks he made in a Spectator column on single mothers. Other unearthed articles show the PM dismissing people’s passion for the NHS being free, and claiming young people had “an almost Nigerian interest in money”.

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Johnson to be interviewed by Andrew Marr after refusing interview with Andrew Neil

This is bound to ruffle a few feathers. Boris Johnson, who is said to be refusing to sit down for an interview with the BBC's Andrew Neil, despite the other party leaders having done so, is now reportedly set to be appear on the Andrew Marr Show this Sunday. No10 will likely use the appearance to point out that the prime minister is happy to be interviewed by the BBC, but that won't satisfy those who want him to face Neil's forensic scrutiny.

Johnson definitely avoiding climate change debate tonight

A bit more on tonight's Channel 4 climate change debate. Senior Conservatives have just confirmed that Boris Johnson will not be taking part, saying the prime minister "has a huge amount in his diary".

The Tories offered up Michael Gove for the debate but were rebuffed by Channel 4, which is insisting that only party leaders are allowed to join. Jeremy Corbyn, Jo Swinson, Nicola Sturgeon and Sian Berry have all signed up.

As we reported earlier, the broadcaster is promising to empty-chair the prime minister (along with Nigel Farage, who is also refusing to take part), unless he shows up.

In a strange turn of events, Channel 4 also refused to comment on reports that it has commissioned an ice sculpture of Johnson to melt on stage if he does not take part...

Farage says Labour ‘know they can’t win the election’

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has said suggestions Labour could change its campaigning strategy are “almost an acceptance that they have lost the election”.

He was speaking after the BBC reported that Labour insiders had said that the party has so far overestimated the threat from the Lib Dems and underestimated the chances of Leave voters switching from Labour to the Conservatives.

Farage told supporters in Hull that the rumoured move suggests that Jeremy Corbyn’s party is “in trouble”.

He said: “I think the truth of it is, they realise they are now fighting a defensive battle, they know they can’t win the election.

“This is now a defensive strategy to try to hold the seats that they have held for decades, it's almost an acceptance that they have lost the election.”

Nigel Farage at a pub in Hull (PA)

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Man with ‘hostility of women’ jailed after threats made to female MPs

In the latest court case over abuse and threats made towards MPs, a man has been jailed for sending fake anthrax to female politicians.

Richard Hayes, 50, has been jailed for five years for sending white powder to 15 MPs, MEPs and local councillors, writes our home affairs correspondent Lizzie Dearden.

Exeter Crown Court heard that he was not identified immediately after sending the packages, between April 2011 and April 2014. Hayes was traced through DNA left on envelopes after he was arrested for harassing a former partner last year.

His targets included Labour’s Heidi Alexander, Helen Jones and Emma Reynolds, Tories Chloe Smith, Rebecca Harris, Jessica Lee and Baroness Nicola Blackwood. Hayes also sent the powder – made of flour, protein powder and bicarbonate of soda – to several Liberal Democrats.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said he showed a “hostility towards women” and caused numerous emergency incidents and temporary quarantines.

Howard Phillips, of the CPS, said: “Attacks on our elected officials are attacks on the heart of our democracy. They clearly have a personal toll too, and these letters caused significant distress to the recipients and their staff, leaving them in fear for their safety.”

The case came after police released intensified security advice to candidates standing in next month’s general election, following an unprecedented increase in abuse and death threats towards politicians.

Tories set to win by large majority?

Our friends at Statista have broken down the results of YouGov’s seat projection – based on sea-by-seat polls across the country.

The fate of the big two parties – the Tories on course for 359 seats, with Labour down on 211 – has been getting attention.

But the model’s projected 13 seats for the Lib Dems is remarkable to see, given Jo Swinson was claiming her party could win “hundreds” only a month ago.

Projected seat share (Independent / Statista)

Tory candidate’s name misspelled on ballot papers

A Conservative candidate has insisted a vote for him was still valid despite his name being spelled incorrectly on the ballot papers.

Jack Gebhard’s middle name of Alexander was missing an ‘N’ when his nomination papers were submitted for him to stand in Wansbeck, Northumberland, against the Labour chairman Ian Lavery.

The town councillor in Morpeth said: “It doesn’t make any difference to the election. I have checked that it doesn’t invalidate the vote.

“I don’t know how it happened. I’m surprised the council didn't make some observation, it’s not like my name is misspelled on the Electoral Roll.”

It would appear the rogue “N” went missing due to a typo.

Northumberland County Council said the ballot papers were printed from information that came from candidates or their agents.

A spokesperson said: “The wording that appears on the ballot paper is taken from the information contained in the statement of persons nominated published by the Acting Returning Officer.

“What appears on the statement, is lifted directly and exactly from the nomination papers submitted by the candidate and his election agent.”

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PM’s claim to have been against austerity an ‘outright lie’, says Labour

Boris Johnson’s old Spectator columns that are causing trouble today. But the PM has penned a new one, claiming he told government colleagues in 2010 that “austerity was not the right way forward”.

Laura Pidcock, Labour’s shadow minister for employment rights, has responded.

She said: “This is an outright lie. We know that Boris Johnson thinks that single mothers should be subjected to ‘destitution on a Victorian scale’. The idea he was against vicious cuts that he previously demanded is an insult to people’s intelligence.

“Boris Johnson’s misogyny and class hatred are disgusting and mean he is not fit to be prime minister.”

Theresa May unveils Nancy Astor statue

Theresa May is in Plymouth for the unveiling of a statue of Nancy Astor – the first female MP to take her seat in parliament.

Boris Johnson was captured saying hello to the former PM at a post-ceremony event.

Earlier, health secretary Matt Hancock was corrected for claiming Astor was the first woman elected to the Commons.

The first woman elected was actually Constance Markievicz, in 1918 – but as a member of Sinn Fein, she didn’t take her seat. The first women to actually take her seat was Astor, following a by-election in December 1919.

BBC criticised for ‘meh’ post before voter registration deadline

The BBC has been criticised for a social media post about being apathetic about politics just before the voter registration deadline.

As many on social media rushed to encourage friends and family to ensure they were registered to vote, one of the BBC’s official accounts posted a range of tweets that called politics “meh”.

It also encouraged people to send in suggestions of things that were more important than politics, and used a variety of bizarre stickers.

All the details here:

Apathetic posts described as 'grotesque'

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Union boss says Labour still has to persuade ‘working-class communities’ over Brexit position

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has been talking about Labour’s Brexit position, saying the party needed to explain to “working-class communities who voted Leave” why they are better-off under Jeremy Corbyn.

He said: “What Labour needs to do is try and explain that it’s only Labour that offers a credible way of actually dealing with Brexit and dealing with the type of Britain that we want in the future, what type of country do we want.

He added: “I’ve always felt that was the challenge, that we needed to explain to working-class communities who voted Leave and are maybe considering voting for the Conservatives or worse still the Brexit Party - that whatever their concerns that made them vote to Leave, if there’s a Tory government those concerns will stay the same, nothing will change under a Tory government.”

McCluskey also said the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was “wrong” to say Corbyn was not fit to be prime minister.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme, McCluskey said: “I think that was wrong and quite extraordinary that a religious leader should come out and say that.”

He added: “Labour has fought, Jeremy Corbyn has fought, I’ve fought all my life against antisemitism.”

‘Headroom’ in the grey book? Labour challenged on spending

Andrew Neil has been asking another Labour politician about how the party would compensate the so-called “waspi” women who missed out of pension money because of retirement age change – having rattled Jeremy Corbyn on the same issue earlier this week.

Asked about how they would find the £58bn when it wasn’t in the manifesto, Labour candidate Lucy Powell said: “Some of that will have to come from additional borrowing – there is some headroom in our grey book for additional borrowing.”

The “grey book” is Labour’s document looking at expenditure.

Corbyn ‘very confident’ about spending commitments

Jeremy Corbyn has been speaking about his party’s environmental policies at an event in Southampton FC’s stadium – pledging Labour will plant two billion trees by 2040 and create 10 new national parks as part of its plans to tackle the climate crisis.

Corbyn also welcomed the IFS’s analysis of Labour’s manifesto but said he is “very confident” it can be delivered without tax hikes for anyone earning less than £80,000.

The IFS said that Labour would not be able to deliver on its promise to raise investment levels by £55 billion a year as the public sector does not have the capacity to “ramp up” that much that quickly.

“I think our manifesto is bold, it’s ambitious, it’s prepared, it’s thought-out and there’s a grey book that fully costs it.

“No other party has produced a costed manifesto, no other party has put themselves up for that kind of scrutiny and I'm quite happy to have that kind of scrutiny, as is John McDonnell and others.”

Jeremy Corbyn speaking in Southampton (EPA)

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Tory candidate apologises for telling Sikh he’s ‘talking through his turban’

A former Tory minister has been forced to apologise after telling his Sikh rival he was “talking through his turban” during an election debate.

Labour has called for Philip Dunne to be sacked as a Conservative candidate over “disgusting, racist” remarks to opponent Kuldip Sahota at a hustings in his Ludlow constituency on Wednesday.

Labour says Philip Dunne should be sacked as a Conservative candidate

Channel 4 confirm they will empty-chair Johnson 

Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage will be empty-chaired in tonight's climate change debate if they refuse to take part, Channel 4 has confirmed.

The Brexit Party leader has already said he will not attend, while Mr Johnson is understood to have asked to send a substitute. This was rejected by Channel 4, which is hosting the event.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson and Green Party co-leader Sian Berry have all confirmed that they will take part.

Prime minister under pressure to back down and join leaders debate, as even his own father says focus on climate change 'tremendously important'

Swinson attacks Johnson over Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Jo Swinson has accused Boris Johnson of having a sense of “Etonian entitlement” and not caring about jailed British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Speaking at an event in central London, Swinson said: “Boris Johnson only cares about Boris Johnson. He will do whatever it takes, sacrifice whatever or whoever is needed to get what he wants.

“This is a man who decided which side to support in the EU referendum by game-playing what would be most likely to get him the keys to Number 10.

“His life has been about becoming prime minister. Not out of some burning desire to make people’s lives better, but out of some sense of Etonian entitlement, because it's what people like him get to do."

She said: “Boris Johnson doesn't care about you and your family. Just take the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. A British mother wrongfully imprisoned, a small child devastated, separated from her mum.”

She added: “When he was talking about that case, his words would be used against Nazanin at her trial.”

She also highlighted the endorsement by ex-English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson as evidence he had far-right support.

“Boris Johnson is not fit to be prime minister not just because he doesn’t care, not just because he lies, but also because he is complicit in stoking division and fear in our communities,” said the Lib Dem leader.

“Why else would Britain's biggest racist, Tommy Robinson, be supporting him?”

Jo Swinson at speech in London (EPA)

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SNP support surges, new polls indicates

Almost half of Scottish voters will support the SNP in next month’s election as Labour’s share collapses, according to a new poll. It is the largest lead given to the SNP in any Scottish survey since the campaign proper began.

The SNP’s share of the vote would increase from the 36.9 per cent it secured in 2017, when it won 35 of the 59 Scottish seats up for grabs, to 44 per cent.

Support for Labour has slumped in Scotland to just 16 per cent of the vote.

While the party secured 27.1 per cent of the ballots cast in the 2017 election, when it won seven Scottish constituencies, research by Ipsos MORI for STV will raise fears the party will suffer losses in two weeks’ time.

Just over a quarter (26 per cent) of Scots are backing the Tories month, according to the poll, with this down slightly from the 28.6 per cent support his predecessor Theresa May won in 2017.

Johnson column reveals enthusiasm for insurance-based healthcare

Boris Johnson’s 2004 Telegraph column on NHS appears to show his enthusiasm for healthcare systems “covered by insurance”.

The Tory leader complained that “the affluent liberal middle classes use their clout and their contacts to get the best from the [NHS] system, and then feel all gooey and warm inside because they have participated in the socialising marvel of free healthcare.”

He claimed the wife of an old friend he met at a dinner party had gone to NHS dermatologist to have a “Rice Krispie” – presumably some kind of boil – removed from her back.

Suggesting an insurance system would have been better for dealing with the condition, he wrote: “My friend may think her experience marvellous, but I think it outrageous, and for what it is worth it is also unjust, surely, that the taxpayer is coughing up for Rice Krispie removal, the kind of cosmetic operation that in France or Germany would almost certainly be covered by insurance.”

PM accused of ‘ignorance’ over column on single mothers

There’s plenty of reaction this morning to that unearthed Spectator column by Boris Johnson – in which he described the children of single mothers as “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate”.

He also suggested it was “feeble” for a man to be unable or unwilling to “take control of his woman”, arguing Britain needed to “restore women’s desire to be married” in the 1995 piece.

While Labour’s Shami Chakrabarti said it revealed his “dark ages” attitudes to women while Labour’s candidate Jon Trickett said it had revealed Johnson’s “ignorance”. The party’s shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said it showed “utter contempt” for working-class men in the Spectator column.

In a separate, unearthed article from 1999, Johnson said young people had “an almost Nigerian interest in money”.

And people have also highlighted a 2004 Telegraph comment piece in which he complained about how much people love the NHS being free as part of a “classic posh-liberal routine”.

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DUP won’t support Corbyn in event of hung parliament

Launching the DUP manifesto, party leader Arlene Foster has said she will not help Jeremy Corbyn get to No 10.

She said the Labour leader “would be bad for Northern Ireland and in a hung parliament we would not support him to be prime minister”.

Speaking at the launch in Belfast, the DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds reserved his criticism for Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

“There can be no borders in the Irish Sea. We will work to try to get a sensible Brexit deal. But it cannot erect new barriers. We need our people to come together, not create more division.”

Both Labour and Tories without candidates in Scottish constituencies

More details on Labour sacking its candidate in Falkirk over allegations she made a series of antisemitic social media posts.

In a blow to the party’s hopes north of the border, Labour was forced to remove Safia Ali as its candidate in the Scottish constituency after it was informed of the Facebook remarks.

On Wednesday, the Conservatives withdrew support for their Glasgow Central candidate Flora Scarabello for allegedly using Islamophobic language.

A Scottish Conservative spokesman said “we have immediately suspended the candidate and the complaint will be thoroughly investigated”.

Jeremy Corbyn has faced fresh pressure over the handling of antisemitism complaints