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Boris Johnson skips debate as poll shows widening lead

Polls are relatively finicky but a new one from Great Britain shows Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Tories are in a good spot to win the election. Via Bloomberg/Yahoo:

Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party is on track to win its biggest majority in more than three decades, according to the most hotly anticipated poll of the general election campaign.

The Tories will win a majority of 68 seats in the Dec. 12 election, according to a YouGov poll which used a technique that more closely predicted the 2017 election than standard surveys. Such a majority would allow Johnson to deliver on his promise of getting his Brexit deal through Parliament by Jan. 31, and could also give him some freedom to make compromises in subsequent negotiations with the European Union.

The poll put the Conservatives on course to win 359 of the 650 seats in Parliament, a gain of 42 on the last election, while Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is set to win 211 seats, a loss of 51. Of the smaller parties, the Liberal Democrats are set to win 13 seats, while the Scottish National Party are on track to win 43 seats. This would be the best Conservative result since Margaret Thatcher won her third term in 1987.

“As expected, the key thing deciding the extent to which each of these seats is moving against Labour are how that seat voted in the European Union referendum,” said Chris Curtis, YouGov’s political research manager. “This is allowing the Tories to overturn quite substantial majorities.”

The poll was released Wednesday, the day before Johnson decided to skip a debate on climate change on Channel 4 News. Why Johnson didn’t attend the debate is up for discussion (Johnson said Channel 4 News knew he wouldn’t be there, while Labour thinks Johnson doesn’t want to be questioned about his policies) so we don’t know if it will change any of the polling results. My guess is, “not really,” for the simple reason I’m not sure how many people change their opinions based on whether someone shows up for debate or not. Johnson’s absence did let Channel 4 News put up an ice sculpture as a replacement, which is quite cheeky.

There are a few caveats to Johnson’s decision to miss the debate. He did send MP Michael Gove and his own father in his stead, but neither were allowed to participate. Channel 4 News says it’s because the debate was for leaders only. It has led to an interesting argument on whether Channel 4 might lose its broadcast license over the ice sculpture. Buzzfeed reports it could happen, citing sources.

“If we are re-elected we will have to review Channel 4’s Public Services Broadcasting obligations,” the source said.

“Broadcasting organisations are rightly held to a higher standard — and particularly Channel 4 which has a special role enshrined in legislation. Any review would of course look at whether its remit should be better focused so it is serving the public in the best way possible.”

The inflammatory move came after Channel 4 said it would empty-chair the prime minister and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage at its climate change leaders’ debate, after the two leaders declined to take part…

Channel 4 is unique among UK broadcasters in that it is a publicly owned “public service broadcaster”, which means it has licensing obligations imposed on it by the regulator Ofcom including requirements for impartial news, current affairs, original programming and production outside of London. The remit of Channel 4 is underpinned by legislation.

This could end up hurting the Tories more than Johnson’s skipping of a debate on climate change which is probably why Johnson and other ministers were quick to deny the Buzzfeed report. It makes sense to quickly tamp down any speculation the government will start controlling the news since the last thing the Tories need is more people suggesting their slogan is “England Prevails.”

It wouldn’t be surprising for Johnson to come out on top in next month’s election although it’s doubtful the Conservative Party will get some sort of massive mandate. There is already fear among conservative publications in Great Britain that Johnson and the Tories will bugger up the election in some way, shape, or form. They have to hope this issue with Channel 4 will quickly be swept under the rug and out of the public eye.

Oh, and President Donald Trump visits next week! Johnson’s already told Trump to not get involved in UK politics. It didn’t go so well for the last U.S. president who tried to influence a British election…

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