Boris Johnson mocked as he confirms he will not take part in Channel 4 Tory leadership debate

Posted On: 
14th June 2019

Boris Johnson has been mocked after he confirmed that he will duck a Channel 4 debate between Tory leadership candidates.

Boris Johnson has confirmed that he will appear at the BBC's planned debate on Tuesday
Credit: 
PA Images

The frontrunner to be the next Prime Minister announced that he will swerve the Sunday night event - as he confirmed he will take part in the BBC's programme on Tuesday.

It comes despite the other five remaining candidates having issued a joint-statement on Thursday night confirming they had signed up to both.

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Mr Johnson said the move was to prevent a "cacophany" of "blue-on-blue action".

According to reports, Channel 4 will instead put up a lectern with his name on it that will be in shot throughout the programme.

Speaking to the BBC's World at One programme, the ex-foreign secretary said he was “more than happy” to have a “sensible, grown-up debate” on the state broadcaster.

"I think it's important we have a sensible, grown up debate," he said. "My own observation is that in the past, when you've had loads of candidates it can be slightly cacophonous.

"And I think the public have had quite a lot of blue-on-blue action frankly over the last three years. We don't necessarily need a lot more of that.

"And so what I think the best solution would be is to have a debate on what we all have to offer the country.

"And the best time to do that, I think, would be after the second ballot on Tuesday. And the best forum is the proposed BBC debate. I think that's a good idea."

Mr Johnson’s decision would allow him to avoid a major TV appearance before the next round of voting among MPs on Tuesday, when at least one of the remaining candidates will be knocked out of the race.

A rival campaign source told PoliticsHome: “Makes sense to just do one, for his team anyway.

“Maybe they’ll only be able to cover off the water cannons, the garden bridge and the bus, and not even start on the Foreign Office.”

Meanwhile a source close to leadership rival Rory Stewart, added: “Rory is the opponent Boris fears most. That’s why he’s ducking out on Sunday.

"But if he thinks he will avoid him on Tuesday night then he’s got another think coming."

HUNT: WHAT WOULD CHURCHILL SAY?

Mr Johnson has been accused of dodging media scrutiny since announcing his candidacy on the back of Theresa May announced her departure.

Following reports that he was set to turn down debates, Jeremy Hunt told the BBC's Today programme that Mr Johnson "needs to be a little braver".

"What would Churchill say if someone who wants to be Prime Minister of the UK is hiding away?," he said, in a swipe at his colleague, who has written a biography of the wartime leader.

Elsewhere in his interview with the World at One, Mr Johnson doubled down on his commitment to taking Britain out of the EU with or without a trade deal by the October deadline.

“It would be absolutely bizarre to signal at this stage that the UK government was willing once again to run up the white flag and delay yet again," he said.

“My commitment is to honour the will of the people and take this country out on October 31.”

Channel 4 has been approached for comment.