Boris Johnson replaced by ice sculpture after TV climate debate empty-chair

28 November 2019, 20:24

The Tory leader was replaced by an ice sculpture during the debate
The Tory leader was replaced by an ice sculpture during the debate. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The prime minister and Nigel Farage have been empty-chaired and replaced by ice sculptures in a live TV debate on climate change.

Two ice sculptures were seen melting under the studio lights on top of lecterns where the Conservative Party leader and the Brexit Party leader were supposed to be standing.

The stunt was described as "a metaphor for the Conservative and Brexit parties" after their leaders failed to turn up to the show.

Channel 4's "Emergency On Planet Earth" debate was focused entirely on climate change and offered party leaders the chance to discuss an issue that has grown in significance ahead of the December general election.

All five leaders present shared a general agreement that a significant effort needs to be made by the country in order to overcome the climate emergency.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said this election was "the last chance" to tackle the climate issue that had "changed our politics forever."

Jo Swinson, head of the Liberal Democrats, added: "The climate crisis is even more important than Brexit, but Brexit is a climate crime. It is morally wrong to leave our seat at the table and give up our influence to create the change we need right across the world."

Party leaders had the chance to debate the climate emergency
Party leaders had the chance to debate the climate emergency. Picture: PA

The SNP's Nicola Sturgeon said the country had a "moral obligation" to address the emergency and claimed Scotland was "leading the way" by halving its emissions.

In her opening statement, co-leader of the Green Party Sian Berry said: "Tonight this is what you'll see - every leader on this stage will agree with me. They will work hard to sound a little bit like the Green Party. Some may even sound convincing."

Plaid Cymru's Adam Price stated the issue was "personal now" since becoming a father.

He said: "My son is only one, and one day soon he's going to ask me, 'You had power, so what did you do?'"

Ben de Pear, the Channel 4 News' editor, explained why they had chosen to empty-chair the Brexit Party and the Tories.

"These two ice sculptures represent the emergency on planet earth, not in any human form, but are a metaphor for the Conservative and Brexit parties after their leaders declined our repeated invitations to attend tonight's vital climate debate," he said.

Mr de Pear tweeted a picture before the debate of Michael Gove and Boris' father Stanley Johnson who appeared to turn up so that Mr Gove could replace his party leader.

He wrote: "In a last ditch attempt ⁦Boris Johnson⁩ has sent his two wing men best friend ⁦Michael Gove⁩ 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."

Krishnan Guru-Murthy added: "It was kind of Michael Gove to turn up at Channel 4 News tonight offering to come on the climate debate, but the other party leaders will only debate other party leaders.

"We look forward to welcoming Mr Gove another time."

Tory Party spokesman Lee Cain said he was "deeply disappointed" that the show had "conspired with Jeremy Corbyn to block the Conservatives" from debating the issue.

"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," he said.

The Conservative Party has written a letter to Ofcom's Election Committee chairman to make a formal complaint saying they have been "deprived representation."

Prior to the programme, a YouGov poll for the climate charity Possible and Friends of the Earth suggested roughly two-thirds of people believed the Tory leader should take part.

The prime minister's father, Stanley Johnson, stated it was "tremendously important" that the issue of climate change is "fully aired" during the upcoming general election.

He said: "There is no doubt in my mind that this is a crucial moment for the environment, both nationally and internationally.