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Boris grilled at Tory leader hustings after ‘plate-smashing, screaming row’ with girlfriend

Boris Johnson today denied his Brexit plan is a fantasy as he toughened up his vow to finalise the UK’s divorce from Brussels by Halloween. 

At the first Tory hustings this afternoon, the front runner rejected claims he has been softening his position that Britain must leave the bloc by the end of October, deal or no deal.

Mr Johnson also doubled down on his claim that the UK would be able to waive tariffs on EU goods even if there is No Deal. Bank of England governor Mark Carney dismissed the idea yesterday, as has Trade Secretary Liam Fox.  

But senior Tories mocked him during the speech by posting images of unicorns on twitter. And one Tory member at the event turned the air blue by condemning his ‘f*** business’ jibe about companies raising concerns about hard Brexit.

Mr Johnson said the swipe had been ‘one stray remark to the Belgian ambassador’ during a private reception. 

He said his record was ‘pretty extraordinary’ when it came to supporting business, even defending bankers after the 2008 financial crunch.

He also refused to rule out cancelling the HS2 rail project, or taking direct action to stop the expansion of Heathrow Airport. Asked about his previous pledge to ‘lie down in front of the bulldozers’, Mr johnson said: ‘We’ll have to see when the bulldozers appear,’ he said. 

At the first Tory hustings this afternoon, the front runner rejected claims he has been softening his position that Britain must leave the bloc by the end of October, deal or no deal 

Speaking at a hustings in Birmingham today, Boris Johnson did not mention the issue in his opening comments, insisting: ‘We need to get Brexit done… and I am the right man.’

Boris Johnson gave a thumbs up during a visit to Nash's Bakery in Bicester, Oxfordshire, after police were called to the home of his girlfriend Carrie Symonds in Camberwell, south London on Friday night

Boris Johnson gave a thumbs up during a visit to Nash’s Bakery in Bicester, Oxfordshire, after police were called to the home of his girlfriend Carrie Symonds in Camberwell, south London on Friday night 

Johnson visited the bakery today on the the first weekend of phase two of the Conservative Party leadership campaign

Johnson visited the bakery today on the the first weekend of phase two of the Conservative Party leadership campaign

The comments came during a husting at which Mr johnson flatly refused to answer questions about an explosive row with his girlfriend as he ran the gaunlet at the first Tory hustings.

The front runner tried to shrug off the storm caused when it emerged police were called to the south London flat he shares with his 31-year Carrie Symonds in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Speaking at a hustings in Birmingham, Mr Johnson did not mention the issue in his opening comments, insisting: ‘We need to get Brexit done… and I am the right man.’ 

And when challenged by broadcaster Iain Dale on stage, he replied: ‘I don’t think people want to hear about that kind of thing.’ 

The couple were allegedly recorded by neighbours having a ‘plate-smashing, screaming row’ during which Miss Symonds demanded he leave. Police were called, but no formal action was taken.   

In the wake of the controversy Miss Symonds ‘liked’ a tweet stating ‘we must have have entertainment at number 10’ – seemingly making light of the extraordinary incident. 

It followed reports she had screamed ‘get off me’ and ‘get out of my flat’ during a terrifying bust-up with Mr Johnson in the early hours of Friday morning at her flat in Camberwell, south London.

Tories believe the development could be a ‘big opportunity’ for the other leadership contender Jeremy Hunt to start overhauling Mr Johnson’s huge advantage.

Mr Johnson’s turbulent personal life is seen as his Achilles’ Heel, as he prepares to divorce his second wife and dodges questions about how many children he has. 

Mr Hunt delivered a stinging rebuke today by asking whether Mr Johnson could be trusted to deliver an orderly Brexit.

Speaking at a Conservative Party Conference in London this morning, he said: ‘If we send the wrong person out as our PM there will be no trust, no negotiation, no deal and if Parliament forces a general election no Brexit.’

Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt are at the first of 16 national hustings in Birmingham this afternoon.  

Mr Johnson, 55, and Mr Hunt, 52, are each making a short pitch to the audience, followed by questions from Dale and Tory members.  

In his opening pitch, Mr Johnson said: ‘I am utterly convinced, utterly convinced, that with the right energy, and the right commitment, common sense will prevail, but just in case it does not, we must prepare to come out anyway. 

‘And we must be able to come out on WTO terms, so that for the first time in these negotiations we carry conviction. 

‘And it is precisely because we will be preparing between now and October 31 for a no deal Brexit that we will get the deal we need.’  

But the leadership favourite insisted today that the move ‘is allowed’ under the rules. 

In a sign of the deepening split at the heart of the Tories, Justice Secretary David Gauke tweeted pictures of unicorns as the Brexit remarks were delivered. 

News of the row at Ms Symonds’ flat emerged last night, after a neighbour handed a recording of the altercation to the Guardian newspaper. In the recording Mr Johnson can be heard shouting ‘get off my f***ing laptop’ before a loud crashing noise is heard. 

Mr Johnson attended the the Uxbridge & South Ruislip Conservative Association summer drinks this evening, an hour after reports of the row with Miss Symonds emerged

Mr Johnson attended the the Uxbridge & South Ruislip Conservative Association summer drinks this evening, an hour after reports of the row with Miss Symonds emerged 

Miss Symonds is said to have been heard screaming at Mr Johnson to get out of the flat in a Victorian House in Camberwell, south London that she bought last year and lives in with her lover (pictured)

Miss Symonds is said to have been heard screaming at Mr Johnson to get out of the flat in a Victorian House in Camberwell, south London that she bought last year and lives in with her lover (pictured)

The Tory leadership hopeful and possible future prime minister shares the home with his partner Carrie Symonds (Pictured at his leadership launch earlier this month)

The Tory leadership hopeful and possible future prime minister shares the home with his partner Carrie Symonds (Pictured at his leadership launch earlier this month)

Carrie Symonds liked this tweet posted by feature writer Victor Olliver soon after the row with Mr Johnson emerged publicly

Carrie Symonds liked this tweet posted by feature writer Victor Olliver soon after the row with Mr Johnson emerged publicly

Next-door neighbour, 32-year-old nursery worker Fatimah, was among those who heard the loud dispute. She said: ‘There was a lot of shouting, a lady was screaming and I could hear glasses or plates being thrown quite a few times. 

‘The man was shouting back. I could hear it through my walls. I was watching TV and muted it because I was so worried. It lasted for about ten minutes. I have never heard anything like that before.

‘You could hear glass being smashed and other things. It was obvious the lady was angry, she was screaming hysterically. My walls were shaking from all the noise and things that were being thrown around.’ 

And Earl McDermott, who lives nearby, told MailOnline: ‘It was a proper tear up. Glasses being smashed, screaming and a lot of arguing. I was walking past Johnson’s house and you could hear it coming from the top floor. I thought someone was being murdered.’

In the recording of their argument, Miss Symonds, who Mr Johnson is said to be hoping to marry after he left his second wife, was heard complaining that he had spilled red wine on her sofa. She then said: ‘You just don’t care for anything because you’re spoilt. You have no care for money or anything.’    

Last night, MPs said Mr Johnson may seek an injunction to suppress any attempt to release the recording. 

One of Mr Johnson's allies, security minister Ben Wallace, tweeted a message in support when the spat emerged, before quickly deleting it

One of Mr Johnson’s allies, security minister Ben Wallace, tweeted a message in support when the spat emerged, before quickly deleting it

The couple pictured together in London on January 18, for the first time after Mr Johnson's second marriage ended following rumours of a relationship with Miss Symonds

The couple pictured together in London on January 18, for the first time after Mr Johnson’s second marriage ended following rumours of a relationship with Miss Symonds

The neighbour who took the recording, told the Guardian: ‘There was a smashing sound of what sounded like plates. There was a couple of very loud screams that I’m certain were Carrie and she was shouting to ”get out” a lot.

‘She was saying, ”get out of my flat” and he was saying no. And then there was silence after the screaming. My partner, who was in bed half asleep, had heard a loud bang and the house shook. 

‘I [was] hoping that someone would answer the door and say ”We’re okay”. I knocked three times and no one came to the door.’ That neighbour called the police.

Scotland Yard initially told the Guardian that they had no record of the incident but after being given the case number, reference number and identification markings of the cars called out, confirmed they were called to Miss Symonds’ flat at 24 minutes past midnight and spoke to all the occupants of the address, ‘who were safe and well’.     

The row between Miss Symonds and Mr Johnson comes after the ex-foreign secretary won the latest round of voting for a place in Downing Street with 160 votes, more than half of all Conservative MPs. 

Mr Johnson showed no signs of the late-night row as he was spotted smiling at a Conservative summer party just an hour after the news broke. 

A spokesman for Mr Johnson declined to comment on the incident.  

Boris Johnson leaving his house this morning. Police were called to Mr Johnson's house in the early hours after neighbours heard screaming, shouting and banging

Boris Johnson leaving his house this morning. Police were called to Mr Johnson’s house in the early hours after neighbours heard screaming, shouting and banging

Mr Johnson speaking at the Uxbridge & South Ruislip Conservative Association summer drinks

Mr Johnson speaking at the Uxbridge & South Ruislip Conservative Association summer drinks

Mr Johnson speaking at the Uxbridge and South Ruislip Conservative Association drinks. The row came just hours after he had cemented his position as the runaway favourite to succeed Theresa May as prime minister

Security Minister Ben Wallace, a close ally of Mr Johnson, came out in his defence before deleting the tweet, which read: ‘What a non story, ”couple have a row”. Lefty neighbours give recording to Guardian. Newspaper reaches new low is a better news story.’ 

Reports suggest that Mr Johnson hadn’t made his campaign team aware of the police’s visit last night. 

This morning – in the wake of the row – Tory former attorney general Dominic Grieve said character is relevant in the Conservative leadership race adding that it matters in both public and private life. 

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think the issue of any candidate’s character, standing for the leadership of a party, and aiming to be a Prime Minister is going to be relevant.

‘And has to be relevant because they are going to be in a position of responsibility where they have to make very important decisions.’

Could Boris Johnson’s personal life be a liability to his chances of becoming PM?

Boris Johnson and his aides will be hoping the dramatic spat with Carrie Symonds can be dismissed as a personal tiff.

But it plays into concerns among MPs that Mr Johnson’s volatile personal life could be a liability.

Mr Johnson announced he was splitting from second wife Marina Wheeler just before his relationship with Ms Symonds – former media chief at the Conservative Party – became public.

If he succeeds Theresa May, Mr Johnson is likely to earn the dubious record of being the first PM in modern times to divorce while in Downing Street.

During the campaign Mr Johnson has faced pressure to state how many children he has.

Both the BBC’s Emma Barnett and ITV’s Piers Morgan have grilled his supporters on why Mr Johnson was seemingly unwilling to face questions about his public and private life – including about the number of offspring.

Mr Johnson has four children with his wife Marina Wheeler who he separated from last year with the pair now in the process of getting divorced.

In 2013 it emerged that Mr Johnson had fathered a child in an extramarital affair with Helen Macintyre, a professional art consultant, and the Court of Appeal ruled that the public did have the right to know about it after a privacy battle to keep the birth a secret.

The daughter was alleged during court proceedings to be the second child fathered by Mr Johnson as a result of an affair, according to The Guardian.

Mr Johnson previously hit the headlines in the 2000s over an affair with socialite Petronella Wyatt. She allegedly had an abortion as a result of the relationship.

Mr Hunt has been stressing his own apparently idyllic family life during his campaign up to now, as well as suggesting Mr Johnson cannot be ‘trusted’ by the EU.

He added: ‘I think one has got to be a bit careful about what aspects of character really matter.

‘But, clearly, things like reliability and honesty are very important things. And, I think they matter in one’s private and personal life, and also they matter in one’s public life.’ 

Residents have been speaking out following the altercation at around 12.24am on Friday morning. 

Nursery worker Fatimah, who described ‘glass being smashed’ in the property, said: ‘I have a four year old son and I was worried the noise would wake him up. 

‘He had a much calmer voice and he was just telling her to calm down, but she was still chucking things about.’ 

She added: ‘I didn’t call the police because the police arrived like a few minutes after. I saw a police van and a police car turn up. I knew they would probably deal with the situation.

‘It went on for just over ten minutes. His voice was quite quiet but her voice was more loud. I couldn’t make out what she was saying because she was just very, very angry.’ 

She said she was unsure who called police. 

Her husband, Imran, 33, said his wife had been frightened by the commotion. 

Speaking outside the home this morning, he said: ‘I wasn’t at home, but my missus heard stuff.

‘She said she heard lots of shouting and screaming and some things being smashed or broken.’

Asked how he felt about the incident, he said: ‘It’s no big deal for me – we’re all human’.

Posters have been stuck up on fences near Ms Symonds’ flat stating: ‘we’d rather endure him as our neighbour than our Prime Minister.’

Kirstie Lamont, who said the posters will be put up during a dog show in the area tomorrow (SUN), said: ‘He’s our neighbour – we are so Green or Labour here. This is not our politics at all.

‘We’d rather endure him as our neighbour than our Prime Minister.’

On the police incident, she said: ‘I haven’t looked into it too much, but the ‘get off me’ sounds really bad.’

Ms Lamont denied the posters were ‘un-neighbourly’ and fumbled when it was put to her that Carrie might not feel welcome in the area anymore.   

Raymond Campbell, aged 48 who lives four doors down told MailOnline: ‘I saw the police arrive just after midnight. I had just got in

‘Everybody knows Boris Johnson lives here. We see him cycling around. The police went into his house and then a short while later a police van also arrived. They were in there for about 10 to 15 minutes.

‘I didn’t know what had happened but I asked some neighbours in the morning. They said there’d been a domestic between Johnson and his partner.’ 

One neighbour told the Telegraph: ‘I heard the row, it was pretty loud. I was quite worried to be honest, it was bad.

‘I heard a lot of smashing – it sounded like plates or glasses – and I could hear her shouting. It was definitely her, I didn’t hear him. There was a lot of shouting and swearing. It didn’t last that long, maybe five minutes. It was unusual because it’s very quiet around here. We don’t usually here things like this.’

Two police cars and a van arrived within minutes, shortly after midnight, but left after receiving reassurances from both the individuals in the flat that they were ‘safe and well’. 

Johnson's campaign team said they had 'no comment' to make concerning allegations that police were called to the home Mr Johnson, left, shares with Miss Symonds, right

Johnson’s campaign team said they had ‘no comment’ to make concerning allegations that police were called to the home Mr Johnson, left, shares with Miss Symonds, right

Neighbours told the Times they had not even realised that Mr Johnson had been living in the apartment until earlier this week.

One said: ‘Boris has been visiting for six to nine months. I think he lives there now because of the frequency we see him. He leaves the house about 8am and he gets picked up by his minders.’  

Mr Johnson was caught out as the words used by Ms Symonds – ‘get off me’ and ‘get out of my flat’ – were picked up on a neighbour’s phone.

How Carrie Symonds ‘transformed’ Boris Johnson’s image 

Carrie Symonds, a glamourous PR executive who friends describe as brilliant and ambitious, is credited with transforming Mr Johnson’s public image.

Under her direction, his famous blond mane has been cropped, he has lost weight and his trademark dishevelled appearance has been replaced by a sharp-suited image.

Carrie comes from a successful background as her father Matthew Symonds was co-founder of The Independent newspaper and her mother Josephine Mcaffee a successful media lawyer.

The couple currently divide their time between her London flat and home in Oxfordshire, but friends expect Carrie to move into No 10 should Boris win the leadership race. 

‘Despite the age gap it is a proper love match,’ said one. ‘When they met it was very much a meeting of minds. Carrie is incredibly quick and funny. 

‘He found her brilliant. She is passionately pro-animal welfare and pro-environment, and Boris really loves that about her.’

Sources say Carrie’s ability to effortlessly combine the intense focus required to win a fiercely fought leadership campaign with a playful sense of fun has rubbed off on Boris, bringing a competency that his political operation once lacked. 

Earlier this month she attended his leadership launch, prompting speculation she hopes to move into Number 10 if he succeeds in his bid for power.

He is also said to be hoping to marry Miss Symonds once his divorce to Marina Wheeler, with whom he has four children, has been finalised. The break-up is said to have severely strained relations between Mr Johnson and his children.

Miss Symond’s flat occupies the first floor of a converted semi-detached Georgian villa.

It is not clear whether the neighbour who recorded the row lives in the same building, either above or below, or on the first floor of the adjoining house.

A senior MP told Mail Online: ‘Boris is clearly the favourite in this leadership race but four weeks is a very long time in politics.

‘He’s got 16 hustings, all of which are going to be televised… a lot can change.

‘I think a lot of Conservative members are waiting to see the outcome of the debates and things like that.

‘This might well play into their concerns about him. You are talking about Conservative Party activists… there are lots of different types of people.

‘There is a lot of female membership. I’m not sure this kind of thing goes down well.’

Another MP said: ‘You just couldn’t make it up. If the bulk of your members are over 60, most of them have got grandchildren, most of them have settled down, most of them are stable… the activists are going to turn around and say do we really want this guy to be PM? Anybody normal would think that.

‘This guy is going to be PM and all this stuff is going on in his private life – how chaotic is he? If he can’t hold it together at his age, what the hell is going on?

‘This will go on and on. It will damage him.’

One Tory MP told the Sun: ‘What the hell is he thinking? This is our worst nightmare.’ 

Others were more dismissive  of the claims, with one member of Mr Johnson’s team saying: ‘It’s just an argument with his girlfriend isn’t it?

‘I’m sure it can all be explained and that’s what I imagine Carrie will do tomorrow.’

A source for Mr Johnson’s opponent, Jeremy Hunt, said: ‘If this is as bad as it first looks, this could be the shortest Tory leadership contest ever.’ 

But Richard Barnes, who was deputy mayor of London under Mr Johnson, told Newsnight: ‘I question the motives of the neighbours who stood there with a microphone pressed against the wall recording somebody’s row… so concerned were they, they went to The Guardian.’

The row came just hours after Mr Johnson cemented his position as the runaway favourite to succeed Theresa May as prime minister.

In the final ballot of Tory MPs he received 160 votes, equal to more than half the total.

His lead was so great that senior Tories believe he was able to ‘lend’ votes to Jeremy Hunt in order to knock out his bitter rival Michael Gove. 

On Saturday, he will take part in the first of 16 televised hustings for Tory members in Birmingham.

Conservative leadership candidate, Boris Johnson departs a Local Government Association meeting in Westminster on Friday, hours after police were called to his house because of the confrontation

Conservative leadership candidate, Boris Johnson departs a Local Government Association meeting in Westminster on Friday, hours after police were called to his house because of the confrontation

Boris Johnson on a beach in the south of Italy with Miss Symonds. Police arrived at the house the couple share at 12.24am on Friday and spoke to all the occupants 'who were all safe and well'

Boris Johnson on a beach in the south of Italy with Miss Symonds. Police arrived at the house the couple share at 12.24am on Friday and spoke to all the occupants ‘who were all safe and well’

Mr Johnson has shared the flat with Miss Symonds since leaving his second wife Marina Wheeler (pictured together in 2015) last year

Mr Johnson has shared the flat with Miss Symonds since leaving his second wife Marina Wheeler (pictured together in 2015) last year

Mr Johnson is believed to have attended a party fundraising event in Reading on Thursday evening before returning to the flat he has shared with Miss Symonds since leaving his second wife Marina last year. 

It now risks adding to concerns among some senior Tories about Mr Johnson’s suitability for the highest office.

What neighbours heard during Boris Johnson’s blazing row with his lover at her South London flat

Neighbours heard Miss Symonds telling Mr Johnson to ‘get off me’ and ‘get out of my flat’.

She said he had ruined a sofa with red wine: ‘You just don’t care for anything because you’re spoilt. You have no care for money or anything.’ 

The neighbour who recorded the row told The Guardian: ‘There was a smashing sound of what sounded like plates. There was a couple of very loud screams that I’m certain were Carrie and she was shouting to ‘get out’ a lot.

‘She was saying, ”get out of my flat” and he was saying no. And then there was silence after the screaming. My partner, who was in bed half asleep, had heard a loud bang and the house shook.

‘I [was] hoping that someone would answer the door and say ”We’re okay”. I knocked three times and no one came to the door.’ 

Earl McDermott, who lives nearby told MailOnline: ‘It was a proper tear up. Glasses being smashed, screaming and a lot of arguing.

‘I was walking past Johnson’s house and you could hear it coming from the top floor. I thought someone was being murdered. ‘ 

Next-door neighbour, 32-year-old nursery worker Fatimah, said: ‘There was a lot of shouting, a lady was screaming and I could hear glasses or plates being thrown quite a few times. 

‘The man was shouting back. I could hear it through my walls. I was watching TV and muted it because I was so worried.

‘It lasted for about ten minutes. I have never heard anything like that before.

‘You could hear glass being smashed and other things. It was obvious the lady was angry, she was screaming hysterically. My walls were shaking from all the noise and things that were being thrown around. 

‘I have a four year old son and I was worried the noise would wake him up.   

‘I am not used to that it is a quiet neighbourhood – there’s nothing that goes in so that’s why I was concerned.

‘I didn’t call the police because the police arrived like a few minutes after. I saw a police van and a police car turn up. I knew they would probably deal with the situation.

‘It went on for just over ten minutes. His voice was quite quiet but her voice was more loud. I couldn’t make out what she was saying because she was just very, very angry.’

Raymond Campbell, aged 48 who lives four doors down the road told MailOnline: ‘I saw the police arrive just after midnight. I had just got in. 

‘I didn’t know what had happened but I asked some neighbours in the morning. They said there’d been a domestic between Johnson and his partner.’

It could also raise doubts in the minds of the party’s members, who are older and more socially conservative than the public at large.

Supporters believe that controversy about previous indiscretions, including a string of mistresses, a love child and past dabbling with drugs are ‘priced in’ by those who believe he is the only candidate who can deliver Brexit and restore the party’s fortunes.

But Mr Hunt has made it clear that he aims to make the remaining contest a test of ‘character’.

Asked whether he could defy the odds and win yesterday, Mr Hunt replied ‘absolutely’, adding that the party’s 160,000 members were looking for ‘someone they trust to be prime minster’.

In a statement, Scotland Yard confirmed they were called to Miss Symonds’s flat at 24 minutes past midnight. It went on: ‘The caller was concerned for the welfare of a female neighbour. Police attended and spoke to all occupants of the address, who were all safe and well.

‘There were no offences or concerns apparent to the officers and there was no cause for police action.’ 

Mr Johnson has said little in public about his relationship with Miss Symonds, a former head of communications for the Conservative Party.

But the couple have been a little more open in recent months. Earlier this month she attended his leadership launch, prompting speculation she hopes to move into Number 10 if he succeeds in his bid for power.

He is also said to be hoping to marry Miss Symonds once his divorce to Miss Wheeler, with whom he has four children, has been finalised. The break-up is said to have severely strained relations between Mr Johnson and his children.

Miss Symonds, a glamourous PR executive who friends describe as brilliant and ambitious, is credited with transforming Mr Johnson’s public image.

Under her direction, his famous blond mane has been cropped, he has lost weight and his trademark dishevelled appearance has been replaced by a sharp-suited image.

The incident looks certain to upset Mr Johnson’s carefully choreographed procession into Number 10.

With polls showing he enjoys a commanding lead, the MP has fought shy of media interviews and public appearances, fearing that his campaign could be derailed by a gaffe.

One ally described it as the ‘Ming vase strategy’, likened his position to that of Tony Blair ahead of the 1997 landslide election, which he described as being like ‘carry a Ming vase across a polished marble floor’. 

The incident plays into concerns among MPs that Mr Johnson’s volatile personal life could be a liability, and could be raised in a frantic slew of hustings events the candidates are about to embark on.

Mr Johnson announced he was splitting from second wife Marina Wheeler just before his relationship with Ms Symonds – former media chief at the Conservative Party – became public.

If he succeeds Theresa May, Mr Johnson is likely to earn the dubious record of being the first PM in modern times to divorce while in Downing Street.

Poster left across the road of the flat Boris Johnson shares with Carrie Symonds in Camberwell, South London

Poster left across the road of the flat Boris Johnson shares with Carrie Symonds in Camberwell, South London

Jeremy Hunt (pictured today as he attended a Local Government Association Conservative Group event in Westminster) has described himself as the 'underdog' in the race to be PM

Jeremy Hunt (pictured today as he attended a Local Government Association Conservative Group event in Westminster) has described himself as the ‘underdog’ in the race to be PM

Mr Johnson is the hot favourite to win the Tory leadership contest and become the next Prime Minister. 

The frontrunner said it was him and not his challenger Jeremy Hunt who could reverse the fortunes of the Conservative Party after it suffered a bruising set of results in the local and European elections earlier this year.

He made the comment as he and Mr Hunt formally kicked off their battle as they each faced their first grilling by Tory members.

What happens now?Tory leadership rivals face three weeks of hustings in front of the party faithful

Jeremy Hunt effectively has a fortnight to derail Boris Johnson’s march to becoming Tory leader – with the first hustings taking place tomorrow. 

The two candidates face four weeks of campaign events where they will set out their stall to the 160,000 Conservative members who will decide who enters No10.

 But their ballot papers will not be sent out by post until July 6 – meaning Mr Hunt has two weeks to land a knockout blow against the frontrunner. 

The party has organised 16 hustings events across the country – with the first in Birmingham tomorrow afternoon. The final event will be in London on the evening of July 17 and a new leader will be announced in the week of July 22. 

June 22: West Midlands

June 26: Digital Hustings

June 27:  South (Central)

June 28: South West

June 29: Lakes & Borders

June 29: North West

July 4: Yorkshire & Humber

July 5: North East

July 5: Scotland

July 6: East Midlands

July 6: Wales

July 11: South East

July 12: Gloucestershire

July 13 Cambridgeshire

July 13: Essex

July 17: London

TBC: Northern Ireland

 July 22: New leader announced

The frontrunner and the self-described ‘underdog’ sought to win over Conservative local authority bosses and councillors today in what was the first of more than a dozen events in front of the party grassroots which the pair will take part in over the next month.

But it is Mr Johnson who is thought to have made the biggest impression as he quoted the British Conservative wartime prime minister who he has written books about. 

‘I’ve never known a time where we got nine per cent in a national election,’ he reportedly said, according to The Sun, as he referred to the Tories’ recent electoral struggles.

‘My message to you today is: the hour is darkest before the dawn. We can turn this thing around.’ 

The support of Tory local government figures will be critical to both men’s hopes of victory and whoever does become PM will be reliant on them to motivate activists and knock on doors. 

Mr Hunt’s and Mr Johnson’s appearance in front of the Local Government Association Conservative Group came after it was claimed that Mr Johnson’s team had warned ministers that failing to publicly back him would destroy their careers. 

The battle to become Prime Minister will see the final two face a gruelling series of 16 hustings across the UK, starting in Birmingham on Saturday, and continuing up and down the country over the next month.

The final outcome of the leadership contest will not be known until the week beginning July 22, with the two remaining candidates taking part in a series of hustings in front of Tory members around the country before the votes are counted.

Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt will also take part in a head-to-head debate on ITV on July 9.  

The broadcaster has promised to ‘get answers to the questions that matter’ in its coverage of the two hopefuls to be the next prime minister.

ITV made the announcement following news that Michael Gove had been knocked out of the leadership race leaving Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt competing for votes from the Tory membership.

It comes after the BBC programme featuring the five would-be PMs has been widely condemned after it emerged one of the ‘ordinary voters’ posting questions was an imam who had previously posted vile tweets about Israel.

Mr Hunt went on to beat Mr Gove by just two votes, the same number as were missing from the expected increase in support for Boris Johnson

Mr Hunt went on to beat Mr Gove by just two votes, the same number as were missing from the expected increase in support for Boris Johnson

Boris is a bottler? Jeremy Hunt accuses his rival of ‘hiding away’ in the race for number 10 by ducking TV debates 

Jeremy Hunt today accused Boris Johnson of hiding away and dodging public debates – as he labelled him a ‘bottler’.  

The Foreign Secretary, 52, slammed Johnson, 55, for failing to agree to a public debate before ballot papers are sent out to Tory members on July 5.

He said Mr Johnson had only committed to a television debate on July 9, after many Tory members were like to have cast their vote.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hunt said: ‘If you’re going to hide away, that’s not democracy.

‘He may be the right man, I may be the right man. But Conservative Party members can only make that choice if you have a proper debate.’

The Foreign Secretary, 52, has slammed Johnson, 55, for failing to agree to a public debate before ballot papers are sent out to Tory members on July 5

The Foreign Secretary, 52, has slammed Johnson, 55, for failing to agree to a public debate before ballot papers are sent out to Tory members on July 5

It comes as he is to join Mr Johnson for the first of 16 national hustings in Birmingham today where both will face questions from broadcaster Iain Dale.

Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt will each make a short pitch to the audience, followed by questions from Dale and the Tory members at the event. 

Mr Hunt continued: ‘The first thing Boris did after the result was announced was challenge me to a debate on ITV. 

‘I thought “fantastic, we’re going to have a really good debate”. Then I looked at the dates. 

‘And that ITV debate is not until after a lot of people have actually sent their votes back.’

There were gasps as the fifth ballot was announced on Thursday evening, with Mr Johnson securing 160 votes, Mr Hunt 77 and Mr Gove 75.

The hopefuls were quickly looking to the next phase of the contest, with ITV announcing the first head-to-head televised debate on July 9. 

It is understood the BBC want to continue their coverage with a special Question Time, and Sky also want a head-to-head hosted by Kay Burley.

But last night Ms Burley said Mr Johnson had refused to take part in their televised debate, adding fuel to Mr Hunt’s criticisms.  

Two divorces, a lovechild and a mistress scorned: Boris Johnson’s complicated romantic history

BY SAM GREENHILL

Womanising Boris Johnson has a string of failed relationships to his name.

The philandering MP embarked on at least five extra-marital flings and got at least two of his mistresses pregnant.

When his affair with Carrie Symonds came to light last September, he and his long-suffering wife Marina Wheeler filed for divorce. Their daughter Lara Johnson, 26, who is only five years younger than Miss Symonds, reportedly branded her father a ‘selfish b******’.

Mr Johnson – who once dismissed reports of his cheating as ‘an inverted pyramid of piffle’ – married Oxford University sweetheart Allegra Mostyn-Owen in 1987, but they divorced in 1993 after he cheated on her with Marina.

In 2004, his four-year affair with journalist and society author Petronella Wyatt, the daughter of Labour grandee Lord Wyatt, became public.

When Boris Johnson's affair with Carrie Symonds came to light last September, he and his wife Marina Wheeler filed for divorce

When Boris Johnson’s affair with Carrie Symonds came to light last September, he and his wife Marina Wheeler filed for divorce

Mr Johnson married Oxford University sweetheart Allegra Mostyn-Owen in 1987, but they divorced in 1993 after he cheated on her with Marina

Mr Johnson married Oxford University sweetheart Allegra Mostyn-Owen in 1987, but they divorced in 1993 after he cheated on her with Marina

She later told how she had an abortion and suffered a miscarriage.

Mr Johnson was sacked from his role as shadow arts minister by then-Tory leader Michael Howard for lying about the relationship. Mr Howard’s spokesman said at the time the issue was one of ‘personal morality’.

Two years later, the News of the World reported an affair with journalist Anna Fazackerley, saying Mr Johnson had been seen leaving her London flat.

At the time Miss Wheeler threw her husband out of their home, but the couple later patched things up.

The following year he fathered a child with art consultant Helen Macintyre.

It is understood Miss Wheeler again kicked him out of the family home.

In 2016, Miss Wyatt said: ‘He is inordinately proud of his Turkish ancestry and his views on matters such as monogamy are decidedly Eastern. ‘I find it genuinely unreasonable that men should be confined to one woman,’ he has grumbled to me, and cannot understand the media’s reaction to his personal affairs.’

Mr Johnson has reportedly been trying to speed up his divorce so he can move Miss Symonds into Downing Street if he wins the leadership contest

 Mr Johnson has reportedly been trying to speed up his divorce so he can move Miss Symonds into Downing Street if he wins the leadership contest

City lawyer Miss Wheeler, 54, a Cambridge-educated QC and the daughter of veteran BBC correspondent Sir Charles Wheeler, put up with her husband’s infidelity for years.

But last September was the final straw for the mother of the MP’s four older children – Lara, Milo Arthur, 23, Cassia Peaches, 21, and Theodore Apollo, 19.

Since then, Miss Symonds and her boyfriend have kept a low profile, and been photographed together on only a handful of occasions.

Mr Johnson owns a home in Oxfordshire but has moved into the flat in south London which Miss Symonds bought last year for a little over £650,000 with the help of a mortgage.

At New Year they jointly hosted a discreet party there for close friends, at which they were reported to appear ‘very much in love’.

Miss Symonds is nicknamed ‘Flotus’, short for ‘First Lady of the United States’, the acronym used for the US President’s wife. Mr Johnson has reportedly been trying to speed up his divorce so he can move her into Downing Street if he wins the leadership contest.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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