Boris Johnson refuses to talk about police incident as he pitches to be PM
The MP and leadership rival Jeremy Hunt have taken part in the first hustings of the run-off for Number 10.
Favourite to be next prime minister Boris Johnson repeatedly refused to answer questions about police being called to his flat as he took part in the first hustings of the run-off for the Tory leadership.
Pressed on the incident as he faced an audience of Tory members in Birmingham, Mr Johnson said: “I don’t think they want to hear about that kind of thing.”
The Tory-organised event came a day after it emerged officers were called to the London home Mr Johnson shares with partner Carrie Symonds after neighbours said there had been a loud altercation involving screaming, shouting and banging.
At the hustings, Mr Johnson and his rival for the Tory crown, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, differed on how to handle the Brexit deadline of October 31.
Mr Hunt suggested he would be more flexible, stating: “A wise prime minister makes choices on the basis of the options that are actually available in front of them at the time.
“Now we don’t know what the situation will be on the 31st of October, but if there is no prospect of a better deal, if the European Union have been as inflexible as you say, and if no deal is on the table, then I will leave without a deal because we must keep our promise to the British people.
“But I would do so with a heavy heart, because of the risks to businesses up and down the country and the risks to the union.
“It is entirely possible that Parliament will rule out no-deal between now and October the 31st.”
However, Mr Johnson’s private life continued to dominate the Tory leadership race.
When asked by hustings moderator Iain Dale whether a person’s private life has any bearing on someone’s ability to discharge the office of Prime Minister, the crowd booed and Mr Johnson said: “Don’t boo the great man.
“People are entitled to ask about me and my determination, my character and what I want to do for the country.”
Mr Dale told Mr Johnson he was “completely avoiding” the question.
But Mr Johnson did promise to “get Brexit done”, telling the audience he is the man to “unleash on the project”.
He told Tory members: “The hour is darkest before dawn.
“And I am here to tell you that in all confidence, we can turn this thing around.
“And the thing we need to do – you know what it is – we need to get Brexit done.”
The fact is there was a police visit. You don't just say 'no comment' Sir Malcolm Rifkind
But Tory grandee Sir Malcolm Rifkind claimed Mr Johnson’s refusal to answer the question implied there was something he may not want to reveal.
Asked if the aspirant PM should have answered the question, Sir Malcolm told 5 Live: “I think he should have answered it; not have spent a great deal of time answering it, but you know if you are a candidate to be prime minister and the police have been called to your house – fairly or unfairly – the fact is there was a police visit. You don’t just say ‘no comment’.
“That implies you may have something you don’t want to disclose.”
Sir Malcolm, a former foreign secretary, added: “It was a lack of judgment to refuse to even make a short comment.”
During the hustings Mr Johnson was also put on the spot by a member of the audience, who referred to a reception in June 2018 when he is said to have replied “f*** business” when asked about corporate concerns regarding a hard Brexit.
The MP responded: “I bitterly resent the way one stray remark to the Belgian ambassador who was making the case that the UK would not be able to leave the European Union, I don’t think that should be allowed to cloud what is, I think, a pretty extraordinary record as a politician for sticking up for business at every conceivable opportunity.”
On the £39 billion Brexit financial settlement to the European Union, Mr Johnson said: “I think it is important that as the UK’s negotiator we should retain some creative ambiguity about the money until such time as we get a resolution.”
Mr Johnson said it is not in the interests “of our friends and partners, I believe, unilaterally to impose tariffs if we decide not to”.
Mr Hunt, meanwhile, said if the wrong person is sent to Brussels, “catastrophe awaits”.
He added: “If we send the wrong person there’s going to be no negotiation, no trust, no deal, and if Parliament stops that, maybe no Brexit.”
Mr Johnson also defended his call to reduce tax for people earning between £50,000 to £80,000.
He said: “It would be part of a package where we would lift up allowances for the low paid to help relieve the burden on the low paid and obviously continue to work on expanding the living wage.”
Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt are battling to win the support of 160,000 Tory party members who will choose their next leader, and prime minister.