Boris Johnson Tory leadership may NOT have been destroyed by relationship fight
Jacob Rees-Mogg led a string of senior backbenchers in rallying around the former foreign secretary following the political storm about a row with his girlfriend that has threatened to derail his leadership campaign. They spoke out after an exclusive telephone poll for the Daily Express showed that nine out of 10 readers believe the frontrunner for Downing Street should not have to explain himself over the bust-up with partner Carrie Symonds that led to the police being called to their flat. Mr Johnson, 55, and Ms Symonds, 31, fled their home after anarchist protesters targeted the property in Camberwell, south London, in the wake of incident last week when neighbours alerted police to the argument.
Mr Rees-Mogg, a leading Eurosceptic MP and prominent supporter of the former foreign secretary, said the candidate had been the victim of politically-motivated snooping by Left-wing opponents.
He said: “I think it is absolutely dreadful, I really do.
“I think the idea that snooping neighbours are recording what is going on for political advantage and then class war protesters are coming to politician’s front door, which happened to me as well, is not a good place for politics to be.
“I think that politicians should feel safe and unmolested in their own homes.
“I think that that is a reasonable thing to ask for. I think peaceful protest is absolutely right and part of a free society.
“But the aggression of the hard left is really appalling and not how British politics has normally been carried out, and snoopers are always unattractive – curtain twitchers, Corbynista curtain twitchers are not attractive.’”
Tory MP Nigel Evans, another Johnson supporter, said: “The more people know about the neighbours the more people believe that carrie and Boris are the victims.
“It is incredible that Carrie has been placed in such an impossible and unenviable situation that she is now scared to return to her flat.
“The campaign against Boris by the left that included displays of posters around the area and a neighbour boasting gleefully about giving Boris a finger when he cheerfully says ‘hello’ is a disgrace.
“It shows you clearly the hypocrisy that is at the heart of some on the left when it suits them.”
Peter Bone, another Tory MP and Johnson supporter, said: “People’s private lives should remain private.
“What I want to see is a prime minister is somebody who is going to take us out of the EU on October 31 and who will run the country with the same success with which they ran London.
“The constituents I’ve spoken to over the last few days have made clear they are not the slightest bit interested in this story.”
Tory MP Nadine Dorries said: “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.”
Former Cabinet minister Priti Patel, a member of the former foreign secretary’s campaign team, said: “I have worked with him and I have also been involved in three election campaigns with him, including two of his mayoral campaigns.
“I do see many of the criticisms and the personal attacks and some of the name calling that has been associated and levelled at Boris, particularly now because of this leadership contest, is very much there to deflect from the fact that he is a Brexit candidate and wants to take us out of the EU, who wants to be a unity candidate and a change candidate for our party and our country.
“Quite frankly, this has now become very much, I think, Remain versus Leave and a personal attack and campaign against Boris because they can see he deliver for our country as he delivered in London.
“He can deliver for not just our party and our Government but as our party on the international stage.
“When he was Foreign Secretary he did exactly that as well on the big issues of the day. I think people should actually come back to him as a leader and what he wants to do and what he will do.”
Boris Johnson popular candidate to become next prime minister
Police visited the couple’s home in the early hours of Friday morning after a neighbour recorded Ms Symonds telling the MP to “get off me” and “get out of my flat”.
Mr Johnson has refused to explain what happened. Results from the Express phone poll suggested this newspaper’s readers agree with his stance.
A total of 808 callers to the phone line answered “no” to the question: “Should Boris explain himself over his bust up with his girlfriend” while 85 said “yes”.
Tom Penn, the neighbour who recorded the row and then passed the recording to the Left-wing Guardian newspaper, has defended his actions.
“Once clear that no-one was harmed, I contacted the Guardian, as I felt it was of important public interest,” he said in a statement released at the weekend.
“I believe it is reasonable for someone who is likely to become our next prime minister to be held accountable for all of their words, actions and behaviours.
“I, along with a lot of my neighbours all across London, voted to remain within the EU. That is the extent of my involvement in politics.
Jeremy Hunt, Mr Johnson’s rival for the Tory leadership, yesterday accused the frontrunner of avoiding scrutiny by declining to take part in a fresh television debate.
Sky News invited the leadership rivals to take part in the head-to-head debate on Tuesday night hosted by Kay Burley but said it would be cancelled due to Mr Johnson’s decision not to attend.
The broadcaster has now invited both men to take part in a debate on July 1.
An ally of Mr Hunt said: “Bottler Boris and his complacent campaign have shown they can’t trust their candidate to turn up and perform.”
And in a newspaper article, Mr Hunt wrote: “Don’t be a coward Boris, man up and show the nation you can cope with the intense scrutiny the most difficult job in the country will involve.”
A Sky News spokesman said: “Jeremy Hunt has agreed to take part, but Boris Johnson has so far declined the invitation.
“We stand ready to host a debate tomorrow evening if both candidates make themselves available.
“Without both candidates, tomorrow’s debate will not take place.
“But we will reissue our invitation for Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson to debate live on Sky News next Monday, July 1.”
A spokesman for Mr Hunt’s campaign said: “Whoever wants to be prime minister must now face up to the intense scrutiny that comes with the job, anything less is deeply disrespectful to our members.
“Trying to duck debates and run down the clock until after postal ballots have been returned is just cynical and complacent.
“Boris Johnson must stop trying to slink into No 10 through the back door and come clean about his programme for government.”
But supporters of Mr Johnson yesterday hit back at Mr Hunt over the personal attacks on his opponent from his allies.
Charlie Elphicke, Tory MP for Dover, said: “Party members do not want to hear blue on blue attacks. What they want is a party leader that will get us out of the EU by October 31 and be able to beat Jeremy Corbyn in a General Election.
“Everyone knows that Boris Johnson is the one who will deliver. And full credit to Boris for not stooping to negative campaigning.”
Zac Goldsmith, Tory MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, said: “I’m disappointed to see Jeremy Hunt making personal attacks on Boris. It‘s hard to believe party members will be impressed either.”
Mr Johnson last night refused to talk about the row with his girlfriend when he was interviewed by the BBC’s political editor Laura Kunessberg.
“I would love to tell you about all sorts of things Laura, but I’ve made it a rule over many, many years and I think you’ve interviewed me loads of times, 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, is, in a way that is not fair on them,” he said.
He rejected her suggestion that his effort to get to Number 10 meant his privacy had to be weighed against the need to be open and accountable to keep the public’s trust.
“Yes I get that, 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 it is simply unfair on them,” he said.
When asked if he was trying to “have this both ways” after a photograph of him and Ms Symmonds appeared on social media yesterday, he said: “Look, I repeat my key point too which is that over many, many years and you can look back at innumerable statements I gave when I was Mayor when, I just do not go into this stuff, and there’s a good reason for it but it’s actually 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.”