Jeremy Hunt says Boris Johnson 'refusing' to answer 'difficult' questions amid scrutiny over flat row
Conservative leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has accused rival Boris Johnson of refusing to answer "difficult" questions amid scrutiny of his private life.
The Foreign Secretary - who polls suggest has enjoyed a lift in support amid focus on a noisy row at the flat shared by Mr Johnson and his partner - said he was "not going to comment on Boris's personal life".
But he urged the Tory leadership rival "to engage properly in this leadership debate" after he dodged the issue at a Conservative hustings on Saturday.
Mr Hunt told Sky News: "This is an audition to be the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. And Boris needs to show that he's prepared to answer difficult questions."
Mr Johnson has been under pressure since a recording obtained by The Guardian revealed an altercation at the Camberwell flat which led to police being called out.
In the recording, handed to the paper by a neighbour who also called the police, Mr Johnson can be heard shouting "get off my fucking laptop" at Ms Symonds before there is a loud noise.
Ms Symonds is meanwhile heard telling the MP to "get off me" and "get out of my flat".
The Tory frontrunner repeatedly refused to discuss the issue during a campaign hustings in Birmingham this weekend, saying people did not "want to hear" about the matter.
Mr Hunt told Sky News on Sunday that he was "not going to comment on issues of character", arguing that the incident was "irrelevant given the gravity of the situtation that we're in" on Brexit.
But he said: "I'm going to benefit if Boris refuses to answer the important questions that a Prime Minister is going to have to address on day one.
"And we need to know basic answers. And Boris has not been answering those questions and that's what the debate is going to be about."
'THIS WON'T BE A PRIME MINISTERSHIP THAT WILL LAST'
A poll conducted for the Mail on Sunday suggests the row may have dented Mr Johnson's chances of seizing the Conservative leadership.
Polling carried out on Thursday saw 55% of Conservative voters pick Mr Johnson as the best prime minister, compared to 28% for Mr Hunt.
But a fresh survey carried out on Saturday registers a sharp drop in support, with 45% of Tory voters now saying he would make the best PM, compared to 34% for Mr Hunt.
Among wider voters, 32% said Mr Hunt would make the country's best leader - three points ahead of Mr Johnson on 29%.
Mr Hunt said he believed the poll shift reflected the fact that people were "beginning to wonder about the coalition of people supporting Boris", with some of his supporters believing he had ruled out a no-deal Brexit and others explicitly pushing for that outcome.
"And they're beginning to wonder which is the Boris Johnson that we're going to get as Prime Minster," Mr Hunt said.
"And if Boris is refusing to answer questions in the media, refusing to do live debates, then of course people are thinking: just who are we actually going to get as Prime Minister?
"If he's going to disappoint people very quickly, then this won't be a prime ministership that will last."
SECURITY RISK ROW
Elsewhere in his Sky News interview, Mr Hunt denied asking supporters to brief the press that Mr Johnson's private life would make him a security risk.
One pro-Hunt Cabinet source told The Sunday Times: “There will be things in his private life that we don’t know about... There’s the danger that people leak what they have over him or blackmail him with it.”
But Mr Hunt said: "I would never make those comments myself and I would ask my own supporters not to make those comments either, because I don't think the public want a debate about people's private life.
"They want a debate about the constitutional crisis that we're in at the moment with Brexit and who is the person, who is the Prime Minister, that we trust to go to Brussels and come back with a better deal."