Published On: Mon, Jun 24th, 2019

Sky News set to cancel Tory leadership debate after Boris Johnson refuses to take part | UK | News

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Fellow candidate Jeremy Hunt had said he would take part in the debate, scheduled for tomorrow, and said Mr Johnson was a “coward” who needed to “man up” and face the public. In an article in the Times, Mr Hunt said: “Only then can you walk through the front door of No 10 with your head held high instead of slinking through the back door, which is what Boris appears to want.”

He added: “Don’t be a coward, Boris. Man up and show the nation you can cope with the intense scrutiny the most difficult job in the country will involve.”

A Sky News spokesman said it still wanted the debate to go ahead, but cannot host the event without both candidates. 

He added: “Sky News has been planning to hold a debate tomorrow between the two remaining candidates in the Conservative leadership election.

“Jeremy Hunt has agreed to take part but Boris Johnson has so far declined the invitation.

“We stand ready to host a debate tomorrow evening if both candidates make themselves available.

“Without both candidates, tomorrow’s debate will not take place.

“But we will reissue our invitation for Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson to debate live on Sky News next Monday, July 1.”

Former cabinet minister Priti Patel, who is backing Mr Johnson, denied that he was deliberately avoiding media scrutiny.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Boris is appearing at something like 18 hustings around the country, has already appeared last week on the BBC debate and is very much undergoing scrutiny through the media every day.”

During Saturday’s leadership hustings in Birmingham, Mr Johnson refused to answer questions about why police were called to his girlfriend Carrie Symonds’ flat after a row broke out.

It emerged neighbour Tom Penn had recorded the pair arguing in the early hours of Friday, with Ms Symonds shouting “get off me” and “get out of my flat”.

Mr Penn said he heard “slamming and banging” from the flat and knocked on the door three times without getting a response.

During Saturday’s hustings, moderator Iain Dale repeatedly asked Mr Johnson to respond to the row, but he refused, saying: “People are entitled to ask me what I want to do for the country.”



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