LONDON — The leading contender to become Britain’s next prime minister was under pressure Sunday to address a visit police officers made to his London apartment after a reported quarrel with his girlfriend.
Political rivals questioned Boris Johnson’s refusal to comment on the incident that brought officers to his door early Friday, when a neighbor reported hearing shouting, screaming and banging from the home Johnson shares with partner Carrie Symonds.
The former British foreign secretary and London mayor emerged from five rounds of voting by Conservative Party lawmakers as the runaway favorite to follow Theresa May as party leader and U.K. prime minister.
Asked about the police visit several times during a Conservative forum on Saturday, Johnson said the public did not want to “hear about that kind of thing.” He said people should judge his character from his track record as London’s mayor and on his plans for leading the U.K.
But the incident continued to dominate Britain’s headlines Sunday. The other candidate in the runoff for Conservative leader, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, said Johnson should not “shy away” from questions.
“I’m not going to comment on Boris’ personal life … But what Boris needs to do is to engage properly in this leadership debate,” Hunt told Sky News.
“This is an audition to be the prime minister of the United Kingdom, and Boris needs to show that he’s prepared to answer difficult questions,” Hunt said.
Police have said the officers who were called to the apartment on Friday found all occupants “safe and well” and no offenses had been committed.
The neighbor who called police, Tom Penn, told The Guardian the shouting was “loud enough and angry enough that I felt frightened and concerned for the welfare of those involved.”
Allegations that he leaked his recording of the argument to the left-leaning newspaper were “bizarre and fictitious,” Penn said.
“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 behaviors,” Penn said in a statement published by The Guardian.
The Sunday Express tabloid’s front page asked: “Why won’t Boris tell us what happened?” The Sun, meanwhile, declared that Johnson was “clearly stitched-up” by left-wing opponents — but said he was wrong to duck questions and should have addressed the incident and put it behind him.
Johnson is widely admired for his ability to connect with voters, but has a record of making inaccurate comments and offensive gaffes.
He and Hunt are the last two contestants competing to replace May as Conservative leader and Britain’s next prime minister. About 160,000 party members across Britain will decide who wins in a by-mail vote.
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UK: Police visit incident dogs Johnson’s leadership campaign – Washington Post