A Labour MP has berated Sky News live on air for letting Iain Duncan Smith “off the hook” for not “skewering” him on immigration.
Sky’s Adam Boulton asked the former Tory leader what the party would pledge on immigration, having failed for years to achieve David Cameron’s aim of cutting it to below 100,000 a year.
Ministers have refused to say whether the Tory manifesto for the snap election will include a commitment to cut immigration to a specific level.
Duncan Smith said on Sky that Theresa May would “control and reduce” it but said he did not like specific targets.
Boulton mentioned the failure to reduce immigration below 100,000 but let the interview go on to other aspects of the issue, such as whether foreign students should count towards the total.
As the presenter cut to Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner, the MP immediately said: “Adam, why did you let him of the hook?”
Before Boulton could ask anything, Gardiner angrily continued: “If that had been a Labour minister sitting there, who had failed on their key pledge on immigration to bring it down...”
Boulton tried to interrupt to say he’d “pointed that out to him” but Gardiner was fired up.
Gardiner: No. What you pointed out to him was ‘well, the lowest [Theresa May] got it to was 100,000’.
Boulton: I didn’t say that.
Gardiner: You did. I heard you.
Boulton: I said she didn’t get it below 100,000. She failed.
Gardiner: Indeed, she didn’t get it below 100,000. And in fact, it’s now up to almost 300,000. That was a key manifesto commitment and you just sort of sit back and say ‘well, you didn’t manage it’.
Boulton: Look, come on.
Gardiner: Now they’re saying to you: ‘It doesn’t matter. We’ll just control it in some way’. And you said ‘Oh well, that’s fine.’ This is outrageous. You’re supposed to be holding him to account.
Boulton: Hang on, wait a minute.
Gardiner: You’re gonna do that to me.
Finally managing to get a word in, Boulton said: “I’m not going to accept that I’m not going to treat all parties with equal fairness.
“The point I was trying to establish was whether or not, in their manifesto, they were going to try and get out of a commitment they have failed to deliver which I pointed out to him.”
Once the interview had actually begun, Gardiner said Labour would not commit to cutting immigration to a specific number, saying: “We are going to manage immigration in line with our economic needs. It could go up. It could go down.”
Gardiner kept returning to Duncan Smith, saying: “You didn’t skewer him. You’re supposed to be the tough guy of Sky News and you let him off the hook.”
“I didn’t,” Boulton replied. “I asked him the questions and he gave me the answers.”
It is not the first time a Labour figure has accused Boulton live on air of being soft on the Tories.
As the 2010 Coalition was formed, Alastair Campbell wound the presenter up by saying he was “obviously upset that David Cameron is not prime minister”.
Boulton got close to Campbell and jabbed his finger in his chest, saying: “I’m not upset. You keep casting aspersions ... Don’t keep telling me what I think. I’m fed up with you telling me what I think, I don’t think that.”
Boulton later apologised for “showing a little bit more temper than was necessary”.