Boris Johnson has said he will not attend Channel 4’s TV debate on Sunday, despite pressure from other candidates in the race to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister.
The former foreign secretary has, however, confirmed that he will take part in the BBC’s debate on Tuesday night.
Johnson was criticised by his fellow five candidates, who issued a joint-statement outlining the importance of the contenders to face public scrutiny.
Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid, Rory Stewart and Matt Hancock – who has since pulled out of the race – said: “The next Conservative leader, and Prime Minister, will have the crucial task of uniting Britain behind a new vision – not only to deliver Brexit, but to define what comes next.
“This leadership contest provides an important opportunity to debate, to shape and to define the ideas which will underpin those competing visions. That is why we are committed to taking part in the Channel 4 televised debates this Sunday and the BBC programme next Tuesday.”
Johnson, who won 114 votes in the first round earlier this week, implied he would skip Channel 4’s debate but said he was “more than happy” to have a “sensible grown-up debate” on the BBC.
“I think it’s important we have a sensible, grown up debate,” he told the BBC. “My own observation is that in the past, when you’ve had loads of candidates it can be slightly cacophonous.
“And I think the public have had quite a lot of blue-on-blue action frankly over the last three years. We don’t necessarily need a lot more of that.
“And so what I think the best solution would be is to have a debate on what we all have to offer the country.”
He added: “And the best time to do that, I think, would be after the second ballot on Tuesday. And the best forum is the proposed BBC debate. I think that’s a good idea.”
Johnson’s decision attracted criticism from rival candidate Jeremy Hunt, who said: “We can only have that debate if our frontrunner in this campaign is a little bit braver in terms of getting out into the media and actually engaging in the TV debates,” he said.
“What would Churchill say if someone who wants to be prime minister of the United Kingdom is hiding away from the media, not taking part in these big occasions?”