A defiant Boris Johnson will today try to get his bid for Number 10 back on track after his leadership campaign floundered as he vowed to never reveal details of a row with his girlfriend which led to the police being called.
Mr Johnson’s hopes of succeeding Theresa May as prime minister have taken a major hit in recent days as he dismissed calls from rivals and a prominent Tory donor to explain the argument with Carrie Symonds last week.
Meanwhile, his decision to skip a proposed Sky News debate which had been due to take place this evening prompted sources close to Jeremy Hunt, his opponent for the top job, to label him a ‘bottler’.
In a sign of potential concern about the state of Mr Johnson’s campaign, his team is planning a ‘media blitz’ today which will see the former foreign secretary take to the streets in the south east of England to meet voters and he will also take part in a radio phone-in this morning.
Team Johnson will have hoped that his first broadcast television interview with the BBC last night would have squashed scrutiny of his love life.
But he risked infuriating his supporters and Tory members as he told the BBC he would never discuss his ‘loved ones’ because it was ‘not fair’ to drag them into politics.
In a rare interview on BBC News At Ten last night, the Tory leadership favourite dismissed calls from political rivals and a prominent Tory donor to explain the blazing row with Carrie Symonds last week
Sources close to Jeremy Hunt (pictured returning to his Londong home after a run this morning) labelled Boris Johnson a ‘bottler’ after he decided to skip a Sky News debate tonight. The debate has now been cancelled
Mr Johnson will face questions from the public during an LBC phone-in this morning from 9.30am until 10am.
He is then expected to travel to the south east for a series of events as he looks to counter jibes from critics that he has been hiding in a bunker since making the final two in the Tory leadership race.
His itinerary for the day reportedly includes a visit to a horticultural society, an afternoon tea and an address to Tory members.
Team Johnson want to shift the focus of the campaign away from his personal life and back onto Brexit which they view as his strong suit.
One Tory MP who backed Mr Johnson told The Telegraph that the campaign so far had been like ‘watching a car crash’.
‘He is getting bad advice,’ they said.
Accusations of hiding away from scrutiny were only likely to increase today after it was claimed members of Mr Johnson’s team had raised concerns about media access to a series of 16 hustings events taking place over the next month.
Brandon Lewis, the chairman of the Conservative Party, reportedly insisted the events in front of Tory members had to be live streamed but members of Mr Johnson’s inner circle allegedly opposed the plan.
Mr Johnson’s team has rejected the suggestion, according to The Guardian.
Asked about the row with Miss Symonds last night, Mr Johnson said: ‘I would love to tell you about all sorts of things but I’ve made it a rule over many, many years… I do not talk about stuff involving my family, my loved ones.
‘And there’s a very good reason for that. That is that, if you do, you drag them into things that, really, is… not fair on them.’
Asked whether his bid for power meant he had a duty to accept greater scrutiny, he replied: ‘I totally get that. But my key point though is that the minute you start talking about your family or your loved ones, you involve them in a debate that is simply unfair on them.’
Mr Johnson’s campaign to succeed Mrs May was rocked on Friday when it emerged neighbours had called the police after hearing 31-year-old Miss Symonds scream ‘get off me’ and ‘get out of my flat’ during a midnight row.
Mr Johnson told the BBC he would never discuss his ‘loved ones’ because it was ‘not fair’ to drag them into politics. Pictured: Ms Symonds
Police left, saying there were ‘no offences or concerns’. But neighbours, who admit they are politically opposed to the Mr Johnson and Brexit, released a recording of the row to The Guardian newspaper.
Political rivals have called on Mr Johnson to come clean about the incident, with Liam Fox saying he needed to avoid the issue becoming a ‘distraction’.
Leading Tory donor John Griffin, who has given the party £4million, piled on the pressure yesterday, saying: ‘We deserve an explanation about that row.’
Some allies also believe Mr Johnson, 55, should offer an explanation for the row in which he was heard shouting ‘get off my f***ing laptop’ and neighbours reported the sound of smashing crockery.
But former cabinet minister Priti Patel said: ‘He’s never talked about his private life and he never will.’
However, eyebrows were raised yesterday at the emergence of pictures showing Mr Johnson and Miss Symonds gazing into each other’s eyes at the weekend after apparently making up. His aides denied the pictures were staged, but there was widespread speculation that they had been released by someone close to the couple.
Asked by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg whether he was ‘trying to have it both ways’, he replied: ‘I just do not go into this stuff, and there’s a good reason for it. But I think what people want to know is, what is going on with this guy, does he, when it comes to trust, when it comes to character, all those things, does he deliver what he says he’s going to deliver? And that is the key thing.’
Asked about the row with Miss Symonds, Mr Johnson (pictured) said: ‘I would love to tell you about all sorts of things but I’ve made it a rule over many, many years… I do not talk about stuff involving my family, my loved ones’
Yesterday, allies of Mr Johnson backed his decision to remain silent over the domestic row that threatened to destabilise his leadership bid. Miss Patel said he had a ‘right to a private life’.
Backbencher Nadine Dorries, who spoke to the couple about what happened, tweeted: ‘I am totally stunned at the level of harassment they have had to endure.
‘Hate mail, Left-wing protests outside their flat, eavesdroppers. The stress is immense, more than most could endure. They are together, strong and united.’
Donor: Can he be trusted?
A major Conservative donor has suggested Boris Johnson would use the position of prime minister to ‘maraud around, taking advantage of women’.
Taxi tycoon John Griffin, who has given £4 million to the Tories over the past six years, said Mr Johnson needed to come clean about the row with his girlfriend.
He said: ‘If I did anything wrong, I would need to explain. Because he hasn’t, it is a real worry.’
The founder of Addison Lee told The Guardian: ‘We need to know if he can be trusted because he will get even more attention from women if he becomes PM.
‘I’d be concerned if he went marauding around, taking advantage of women by using his position. It would not be right at all.’
Jacob Rees-Mogg attacked the ‘Corbynista curtain-twitchers’ who recorded the couple’s row and passed it to The Guardian.
However, privately, senior figures told the Mail they despaired at how the issue was being handled. One ally said: ‘We just need a better f****** line to take.’ A minister in his camp said: ‘You just can’t get away with not addressing it.’
A prominent supporter added: ‘We can’t talk about it because Boris won’t talk about it.’
Another MP said: ‘There isn’t a person in this place who hasn’t had a row with their partner, but he has to deal with it. He’s getting a lot of sympathy… but that doesn’t mean he can’t address it.’
Zac Goldsmith, a member of Mr Johnson’s team, criticised Mr Hunt for ‘personal attacks’, adding: ‘It’s hard to believe party members will be impressed either.’
Mr Hunt has said he was ‘not interested’ in his rival’s private life. But he has accused Mr Johnson of being a ‘coward’ for dodging media appearances and accused him of trying to ‘slink through the back door’ of No 10. Until last night, Mr Johnson had not given any media interviews since he reached the final two in the leadership contest on Thursday. Mr Hunt’s camp say he has been questioned 32 times.
Critics of Mr Johnson also tried to make political capital out of the row. Former leadership candidate Rory Stewart said: ‘Boris thinks it’s possible to have both his wife and his mistress.’
Mr Johnson also faced renewed criticism after pulling out of tonight’s Sky News debate, having already ditched a Channel 4 debate. Sky invited both contenders to take part in a 90-minute head-to-head. Mr Hunt agreed but the broadcaster postponed the event yesterday until July 1 because Mr Johnson refused to attend.
The couple broke cover in a photo – published exclusively by MailOnline – that showed them looking happy and were holding hands in the Sussex countryside on Sunday
A spokesman for Mr Hunt said: ‘Whoever wants to be prime minister must face up now to the intense scrutiny that comes with the job. Anything less is disrespectful to our members.’
One Hunt ally said: ‘Bottler Boris and his complacent campaign have shown they can’t trust their candidate to turn up and perform.’
David Lidington, Theresa May’s effective deputy, said it was ‘wrong’ for Mr Johnson to ‘duck debates’, adding: ‘We’re choosing not just a party leader, we’re choosing a prime minister.’
Forget the row – they’ll still marry, say friends
By Sam Greenhill, Arthur Martin and Jim Norton
Boris Johnson and his girlfriend are preparing to get married, friends insisted yesterday.
Far from being on the verge of splitting up after their blazing row, the couple are just waiting for the right moment to wed, the friends said.
They spoke as photos emerged of the pair relaxing in a Sussex garden over the weekend, presenting an apparently serene image of love and tranquillity.
The pictures were in stark contrast to last Friday’s reports of smashing plates, cries of ‘Get off me’ and police arriving at Carrie Symonds’ Camberwell flat.
Critics suggested that the photographs, which showed the couple apparently deep in conversation in a verdant garden with rolling green hills in the background, were staged to quell claims their relationship was in crisis.
But allies of the pair said it showed they were genuinely ‘loved up’. Nimco Ali, who is very close to Miss Symonds, 31, and accompanied her to the launch of Mr Johnson’s leadership campaign, said on the subject of marriage: ‘That’s the expectation. They are happy and good for each other. Carrie is an amazing woman,’ she added, speaking to the Evening Standard. ‘Kind, decent and genuinely wants to make the world a better place.’
Another confidante told MailOnline, which yesterday obtained the photos taken in an unknown garden over the weekend: ‘The truth is that they love each other very much and want to get married as soon as the time is right. Boris only has eyes for Carrie and she is totally smitten with him.’
Last night, Mr Johnson was confronted over the pictures in a TV interview and asked whether he was ‘trying to have it both ways’. He again refused to address the issue publicly, insisting: ‘I just do not go into this stuff.’
His relationship with Miss Symonds has been the focus of attention since details of their row emerged on Friday night.
Neighbours Eve Leigh, 34, and Tom Penn, 30, who allegedly heard her yelling ‘Get off me’ and ‘Get out of my flat’ later handed their tape recording of the row to The Guardian newspaper.
The couple were later unmasked as ardent Left-wingers who had openly boasted of their dislike for Mr Johnson. He and Miss Symonds were forced to flee their south London home after anarchists set up camp on their doorstep.
Yesterday it was said to be Miss Symonds, a former PR worker for the Conservative Party, who was the driving force behind the new images of their relationship.
An onlooker was quoted as saying: ‘They looked really relaxed and happy. They sat there for ages chatting and holding hands.’
Mr Johnson was said to have been resistant to the idea of appearing in public with his girlfriend to debunk suggestions they were about to split – suggesting Miss Symonds might have persuaded him to change his mind.
Some speculated the photos were old, saying Mr Johnson’s hair looked noticeably longer than in recent days. But a source in the Johnson Tory leadership campaign confirmed the photographs were genuine, and taken on Sunday.
Mr Johnson’s divorce from his second wife Marina has not yet been finalised. If he makes Miss Symonds his third wife, he could become the first prime minister to wed while serving in Downing Street for 250 years.
There was a growing backlash against the neighbours who recorded the row. Brexiteer MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is backing Mr Johnson, branded the couple ‘Corbynista curtain twitchers’.
Tory MP Nadine Dorries said she had spoken to Mr Johnson and his partner. ‘They are shocked and upset that their neighbours taped their private conversation for The Guardian,’ she said. Miss Ali added: ‘They don’t deserve this from creepy neighbours. People in love row once in a while.’
His plan to end the Brexit impasse? Positive energy
By Jason Groves, Political Editor for the Daily Mail
Boris Johnson warned Britain to ‘prepare for a No Deal Brexit’ last night in the hope of winning concessions from the EU.
But as he revealed his Brexit blueprint, he was warned he faces a mutiny from Tory Remainers which could force him from office within months.
In the most detailed explanation of his plans so far, Mr Johnson told the BBC that Theresa May’s Brexit deal was ‘dead’ – but insisted his ‘positive energy’, coupled with the threat of No Deal and the withholding of the £39billion divorce payment could persuade the EU to back down in key areas.
Mr Johnson warned Britain to ‘prepare for a No Deal Brexit’ last night in the hope of winning concessions from the EU
The Tory leadership frontrunner said he would engage in ‘creative ambiguity about when and how’ the divorce payment is made.
He insisted a new deal could be struck in time to take Britain out on October 31. And he said the EU would agree to a Brexit transition even in the event of No Deal – something Brussels has strenuously denied.
But he said it was ‘common sense’ to ‘prepare confidently and seriously for a No Deal outcome’, as this was the best way of securing concessions from the EU.
Earlier former Tory chancellor Kenneth Clarke warned that he would be willing to join forces with Labour to vote down the Government if a new prime minister tries to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.
Defence minister Tobias Ellwood added that a dozen Tory MPs were prepared to deploy the nuclear option – easily enough to defeat the Government, which has a working majority of just four.
Meanwhile in the Commons, Theresa May warned elements of Mr Johnson’s Brexit plan were unworkable, saying it would be impossible to have a Brexit transition if Britain leaves without a deal on October 31.
And the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox undermined another element of Mr Johnson’s plan by warning that it may be impossible to continue with tariff-free trade with the EU in the event of No Deal.
Mr Clarke issued a public warning to Mr Johnson, saying he was ‘talking nonsense’ about Brexit. He acknowledged a vote of no confidence ‘might trigger an election, it might trigger a change of government without an election under the law we now have’.
But he added: ‘I am not going to vote in favour of a government that says it is going to pursue policies which are totally incompatible with everything the Conservative Party has stood for under all those prime ministers for the decades that I have been in Parliament.’
Mr Johnson’s leadership rival Jeremy Hunt has called him a ‘bottler’ for skipping a TV debate with him tonight
And Mr Ellwood said it was ‘absolutely the case’ some Tory MPs, including ministers, were prepared to risk defeating the Government to prevent No Deal.
He told the BBC’s Panorama: ‘I think a dozen or so members of Parliament would be on our side, would be voting against supporting a No Deal and that would include ministers as well as backbenchers.’
Mr Johnson continued to insist yesterday that he would not ‘bottle’ Brexit.
In a video message posted his campaign, he said it would be possible to negotiate a free trade deal during the ‘implementation period’ that would follow the UK’s departure.
He said: ‘You reserve the payment of the £39billion. That is in the context of the Free Trade Agreement, that we’ll negotiate in the implementation period, after we’ve come out on October 31.’
Tory MP Johnny Mercer, who is backing Mr Johnson’s leadership bid, dismissed the idea that Tory MPs would ever vote to bring down the Government.
He added: ‘MPs will say now that they will do a number of things. But when reality bites and they see they would bring about a Marxist Corbyn government they will back down and we will grit our teeth and get this No Deal done, if it is necessary.’