‘Don’t be a coward’: Boris Johnson must answer questions over altercation with girlfriend, says Hunt

Underdog speaks out after ally Liam Fox says of Johnson’s stonewalling ‘It’s always easier to just give an explanation’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 24 June 2019 07:52 BST
Jeremy Hunt on whether Boris Johnson should explain police presence at his house: 'I think someone who wants to be prime minister should answer questions on everything'

Jeremy Hunt has accused Boris Johnson of cowardice after the favourite to become the UK’s next prime minister refused to discuss the noisy altercation with his girlfriend.

Writing in The Times, the foreign secretary said his rival was “pathetically” avoiding questioning and trying to ”slink through the back door” of No 10.

“Don’t be a coward Boris,” Mr Hunt wrote as he urged the Tory frontrunner to show up to a Sky News debate on Tuesday. “Man up and show the nation you can cope with the intense scrutiny the most difficult job in the country will involve.”

Meanwhile, on a visit to Scotland, Mr Hunt denied he was trying to make character a central issue in the contest, because everyone had something they “would be embarrassed” about, if it emerged.

But, asked if Mr Johnson was right to refuse, repeatedly, to explain the screaming row at the flat he shares with his girlfriend, the underdog in the Tory leadership race replied: “I think someone who wants to be prime minister should answer questions on everything.”

Mr Hunt added: “I am not going to comment on Boris’s personal life. That’s for others to make their judgments on.”

“What Boris needs to do is engage properly in this leadership debate, not to shy away from the Sky News live debate which is scheduled for Tuesday evening which he’s been invited to.

“I’ve said I’m willing to go to. This is an audition to be the prime minister of the United Kingdom.”

Mr Hunt’s comments, on a visit to Scotland, came after one of his key allies, trade secretary Liam Fox, said of Mr Johnson’s stonewalling: “It’s always easier to just give an explanation.”

The fresh focus on the dispute comes after the favourite in the race for No 10 suffered a major slump in popularity in the wake of the incident, as voters said his private life does matter.

Mr Johnson’s lead among Conservative voters has more than halved since the incident in the early hours of Friday morning – and rival Jeremy Hunt has snatched the lead among the wider public.

More than half of voters said Mr Johnson’s private life was relevant to his ability to be prime minister and three-quarters said a candidate’s character was relevant to the contest.

“It is unusual to see a politician’s private life having this level of salience among voters,” said Damian Lyons Lowe, chief executive of pollsters Survation.

Mr Johnson has refused to give an explanation for the banging and screaming heard at the flat he shares with Carrie Symonds, despite it casting a shadow over his bid for No 10.

Asked about the incident at the first leadership hustings in Birmingham, Mr Johnson said people didn’t “want to hear about that kind of thing”.

He added that the audience of party members were more interested in what his “plans are for my country and for the party”.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

In a recording obtained by The Guardian, Carrie Symonds, Mr Johnson’s girlfriend, was reportedly heard screaming and telling him to “get off me” and “get out of my flat”.

The tape is also said to reveal Mr Johnson shouted at Ms Symonds to “get off my f***ing laptop” before a loud crashing noise was heard.

The neighbour who alerted police about the row has defended making the recording, saying political leaders must be “held accountable for all of their words, actions and behaviours”.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in