LONDON — Britain’s governing Conservative Party was feuding with broadcaster Channel 4 on Friday after the network put an Earth-shaped ice sculpture in place of Prime Minister Boris Johnson after he declined to appear for a climate change-themed TV debate.

The party complained to Britain’s broadcast watchdog, Ofcom, over what it called “a provocative partisan stunt,” in Thursday’s debate ahead of next month’s election to fill all 650 seats in the House of Commons.

British leaders take aim at Boris Johnson’s character ahead of Dec. 12 election

Five party leaders took part, including Jeremy Corbyn of the main opposition Labour Party. Johnson and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage declined to attend and were replaced with melting sculptures atop podiums.

Johnson is being accused of running scared of scrutiny after he dodged the debate. He has also refused to commit to a one-on-one TV interview.

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“I’ve done plenty of debates,” Johnson told radio station LBC. “I can’t do absolutely everything.”

The prime minister is due to face questions from the media at a press conference Friday.

U.K. Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn accuses PM Johnson of U.S. trade talks involving health service

U.K. Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn accuses PM Johnson of U.S. trade talks involving health service

With most polls showing a double-digit lead for Johnson’s Conservatives and less than two weeks until polling day on Dec. 12, the party is keen to limit the prime minister’s opportunities for gaffes and slip-ups.

But Johnson’s refusal to participate in the climate debate has spawned allegations of misleading trickery by his party.

The Conservatives sent another Cabinet minister, Michael Gove, to the Channel 4 studios seeking to join the debate. When informed it was a leaders-only event, Gove accused the opposition of being “scared to debate a Conservative.”

The Conservatives say they will cut Britain’s net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Labour and the other main parties say they will do it sooner.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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