London: Boris Johnson embarked on a media blitz on Tuesday, hoping to shift the subject away from his private life and back to Britain’s pending departure from the European Union.
Johnson, who is running to be the next leader for both the Conservative Party and the nation, has refused to address personal questions despite an ongoing clamor to face public scrutiny amid the fallout from a reported quarrel with his girlfriend last week that prompted a police visit. In break from his previous strategy, the front-runner took part in three interviews in less than 24 hours, responding to challenger Jeremy Hunt’s criticism that he was a ‘coward’ and needed to face greater public scrutiny if he is to become prime minister.
The winner of the contest will replace Theresa May, who stepped down as party leader after failing to secure Parliament’s approval for her EU divorce deal.
Speaking on Tuesday on LBC radio, Johnson was questioned over a picture showing him and girlfriend Carrie Symonds in the leafy Sussex countryside amid speculation that it was staged and released by his campaign.
Symonds, a former Conservative Party press officer, has remained firmly out of the public eye since the reported quarrel on Friday.
“The difficulty is that the minute you say one thing you obviously are bringing people, your loved ones, your family, into the public domain in a way that is not fair,” Johnson said.
Asked where the photograph had come from and when it was taken, Johnson said “the longer we spend on things extraneous to what I want to do ... the bigger the waste of time.” Host Nick Ferrari pressed on. He said the picture showed Johnson with a hairstyle he no longer wears and suggested it was an old image. Johnson simply refused to answer.
“This conversation is now descending into farce,” he declared.
Announcement of next PM on July 23
The winner of the contest to replace Theresa May as leader of Britain’s ruling Conservatives and prime minister will be announced on July 23, the ruling party said Tuesday.
Former foreign minister Boris Johnson is the favourite in the race, battling Britain’s current top diplomat, Jeremy Hunt. The two candidates were chosen from a field of 10 by the Conservative party's 313 MPs, and are now seeking to woo an estimated 160,000 party members who will make the final choice. Postal ballots will be sent out between July 6 and 8, and the deadline for returning them has been set at 5:00 pm (local time) on July 22.
“The announcement of the next leader of the Conservative party will be made on Tuesday 23 July. This process has been agreed with both candidates,” the statement said.