Boris Johnson can shun questions for now – but he won’t be able to if elected PM

After a weekend filled with accusations that Boris Johnson has been avoiding scrutiny, the leadership candidate spent Tuesday on something of a media blitz.

Kicking off with an interview on LBC radio, then another with Talk Radio before heading to Surrey for a series of campaign events, where he was again asked questions about his personal life.

The campaign didn’t begin in the way Team Johnson hoped it would, with a row between him and his girlfriend, after which the police were called, dominating headlines for days. And criticism from his rival over a decision not to take part in a Sky News debate.

Campaign insiders feel sure the Conservative membership won’t be swayed by the focus on his private life, indeed for many – they say – it has strengthened their support.

But MPs in Westminster who harboured concerns about Mr Johnson’s character before are feeling even more wary now.

The answer, after some to-ing and fro-ing over the weekend, has been to re-emerge and re-focus the campaign on Brexit.

By vowing to leave the EU by the 31 October “do or die”, Mr Johnson and his team hope they can cement his credentials as the best man to deliver a speedy exit, the issue foremost in the minds of members.

This, they feel, is his strongest ground and the area where he can offer answers and options in place of his rival, whose plan to extend if necessary has led to concern among some Conservatives about a long delay.

A letter to Jeremy Hunt demanding answers on where he stands on Brexit formed the second wave of the plan, and more is expected on Wednesday.

Yet questions remain for Mr Johnson on Brexit, and how he will reach an agreement with the EU before October, and on his personal life too.

He was asked 26 times on Tuesday morning whether a photo, released to show him and girlfriend Carrie Symonds happy after the argument, was staged.

Again and again he refused to answer. It is a question which he will keep being asked.

His decision not to take part in a debate with Mr Hunt on Sky News has infuriated his rival and fuelled claims Mr Johnson wants the campaign run on his terms.

His team sees this as playing to his strengths, his opponents believe it is arrogant and cowardly.

Mr Johnson and his team want to move the campaign, and the arguments both men have to face, back onto what they see as safer ground – Brexit.

They believe their message – that the UK must leave on 31 October no matter what – is the right one and the only one that will win with members.

They may well be right, but those questions about character will come up again and again.

Whether that matters to the membership or not, whoever wins with them will also become prime minister for the whole country.

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