Where’s Johnson? PM candidate criticised for avoiding scrutiny

LONDON (Reuters) – Boris Johnson, the favourite to succeed British Prime Minister Theresa May, was criticised on Tuesday by rivals who said the former foreign minister was avoiding public scrutiny in the contest.

Conservative Party leadership candidate Boris Johnson leaves his home in London, Britain June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

After three years of political deadlock over Brexit, the ruling Conservative Party is picking a new leader from 10 candidates and hopes to have a new prime minister in place by the end of July.

Johnson, who led the official campaign to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, is the frontrunner to replace May despite a long record of scandals and gaffes. Betting markets give him a 60 percent probability of winning the top job.

But rivals have turned on Johnson over his pledges to cut taxes for the wealthy, deliver Brexit with or without an exit deal and his apparent desire to keep a low profile.

Rival Matt Hancock said: “I certainly think that everybody who puts their name forward to be prime minister should be open to scrutiny, should be accountable.

“Everybody should participate in the proposed TV debates. And I think weve got to ask the question: why not?” he told BBC radio. “Ive got nothing to hide and thats why I am here.”

When asked about Johnson, Mark Harper, another candidate, said: “If youve got nothing to hide, you wont mind answering questions.”

A spokesman for Johnson did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Johnson left his home in London on Tuesday morning without comment, a Reuters reporter said. He is due to begin his campaign on Wednesday.

“Time to come out of your bunker, Boris” the Daily Mail, Britains second-most-read newspaper, said in an editorial.

“Usually he positively craves media attention … Yet for weeks now he has been stuck in his trench, dribbling out vague policy ideas,” the newspaper said.

Rivals say he is avoiding the limelight because the contest is his to lose – a stray word or poorly placed joke could deprive him of his best chance at getting Britains top job.


Johnson made his name as a European Union-bashing journalist in Brussels, then entered politics in the Conservative Party. He also raised his profile through a series of appearances on a television comedy.

He upset some Europeans before Britains Brexit referendum by comparing the goals of the EU with those of Adolf Hitler and Napoleon.

His quick wit and eccentric style helped him shrug off a series of scandals, among them getting sacked from the partys policy team while in opposition for lying about an extra-marital affair. That and other episodes earned him the tabloid nickname “Bonking Boris”.

But where others would have floundered, Johnson became increasingly popular, culminating in his two victories in usually left-leaning Londons mayoral contests in 20Read More