Jeremy Hunt tells 'coward' Boris Johnson to 'man up' and face public scrutiny
Jeremy Hunt has called on his Tory leadership rival Boris Johnson to "man up" and stop being a "coward" amid intense scrutiny of his private life.
While the Foreign Secretary insisted he had no interest in discussing a noisy altercation Mr Johnson had with his partner, Carrie Symonds, at the flat they share, he accused his rival of trying to become Prime Minister by "slinking through the back door" of Number 10.
Mr Johnson has been under pressure since police were called to the south London property in the early hours of Friday morning.
In a recording obtained by The Guardian Ms Symonds is heard telling the MP to "get off me" and "get out of my flat".
The Tory frontrunner repeatedly refused to discuss the incident at a campaign hustings this weekend.
Writing in The Times, Mr Hunt said he was "not interested in debating Boris’s private life".
"But I do want to quiz him on how he can 'guarantee' we will leave the EU on October 31 if parliament votes to stop a no-deal Brexit, as it did in March," he added.
"I want to know what he really means by 'reviewing' HS2 or his 'grave reservations' about the third runway — surely he has had long enough to decide what he thinks?"
The Foreign Secretary said: "A new Prime Minister needs the legitimacy of having made his arguments publicly and having them subjected to scrutiny.
"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."
Mr Johnson has so far refused to agree to a series of televised leadership debates, ducking a Channel 4 appearance and staying away from one organised by Sky News for Tuesday night.
In a direct challenge to his rival, Mr Hunt said: "The first debate that Boris has been invited to will be on Sky News tomorrow evening. I’ll be there. So 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."
The comments came as former Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt - who is backing Mr Hunt's bid for the Tory leadership - accused Mr Johnson of "avoiding scrutiny" over his private life and his policies.
“The public have to make a judgement about an individual’s character, bringing all things together," he told the BBC's Westminster Hour.
"An individual’s character is important and the public have to decide what’s relevant and what isn’t."
He added: "I think Jeremy Hunt is right to say it’s not about his private life - it’s about Boris Johnson avoiding scrutiny in all sorts of other places, policy areas particularly, and I think that’s the most significant – that you can’t ignore these things about people."
Mr Johnson made no mention of the row in his latest column for the Telegraph, instead doubling down on his pro-Brexit message and saying he would not "bottle it" over his pledge to leave the EU by 31 October.
But on Sunday Cabinet minister Liz Truss, a key backer of Mr Johnson's bid for Number 10, said the row was a "private matter".
"There's no point in asking me," the Chief Secretary to the Treasury told the BBC's John Pineaar.
"I believe it's a private matter. I don't think the public are concerned about that."