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Boris Johnson dodged the Channel 4 debate bullet – but he’ll have to answer questions soon whether he likes it or not

It will do the leadership frontrunner no good if he doesn’t even make a passing attempt to win support in the country, and he can’t do so unless he responds to the many burning questions the electorate has

Sunday 16 June 2019 21:45 BST
The leadership frontrunner can’t hide forever
The leadership frontrunner can’t hide forever (EPA)

Boris Johnson appears such a foregone conclusion as Britain’s next prime minister that it calls to mind a phrase Roy Jenkins once used about Tony Blair when the then young Labour leader of the opposition also looked unassailable on his path to power.

Mr Johnson today “is like a man carrying a priceless vase of Chinese porcelain across a slippery floor”. But boorish, careless, gaffe-prone Mr Johnson is the last person who should be entrusted with such a task. He knows it. Hence his fear of making the tiniest slip. Hence his fear of facing critics or opponents on television. The premiership is his to lose.

So the man who has spent so much of his career “building profile” in the media has gone to ground. Where he would once happily josh with Paul Merton and Ian Hislop about cocaine and icing sugar, he is now entirely absent. Mr Johnson is the invisible man, a political construct that dare not be interrogated, a man with such a poor record of private integrity it cannot be subjected to the slightest scrutiny. He is, to recycle another old phrase, frit.

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