Boris Johnson will be taking part after all in an upcoming televised debate where Conservative leadership candidates will be facing off over big issues, he said on Friday, June 14th.
Johnson, the front-runner in the contest to succeed prime minister Theresa May, was accused of avoiding media appearances by rivals and critics in recent days. An accusation that only turned louder, when Johnson signalled that he was unlikely to take part in a debate programme scheduled for Sunday June 16th by the UK’s Channel 4.
Debates with "loads of candidates" could be "slightly cacophonous," Johnson argued according to AP.
He would, however, take part in the BBC debate on Tuesday evening, June 18th. The later date would ensure that the field of candidates will be further reduced by that time, as a second round of voting will take place on Tuesday, June 18th and will see more candidates eliminated from the race.
The BBC reported Johnson saying he was "very keen" on TV debates, but viewers might not like too much "blue-on-blue action."
The original accusation came with the argument that Johnson’s PR team was purposely trying to keep him out of the spotlight as much as possible, to not mess with the comfortable advantage he currently holds in support numbers. By not facing the media, he has got away with not answering many tough questions about his plans, critics said.
Johnson's commanding lead in the polls makes him almost certain to be in the final two. He is admired by many Conservative party members, but has a history of imploding by giving offensive statements and haphazard performances in high office. Another reason rivals suspect that is why he has used a reclusive strategy.
Johnson did state that as prime minister he would "get Brexit done," but has avoided media scrutiny on how he would achieve that goal, since the EU says it will not reopen the divorce agreement, and many economists say a no-deal exit would cause economic turmoil.
Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is in second place, commented a prospective national leader should not be "hiding away from the media."
All the remaining candidates, apart from Johnson, say they will take part in the TV debates on both Sunday June 16th and Tuesday June 18th.
Meanwhile, one of the seven contenders who had made it past the first round of votes on Thursday, June 13th, has quit the race the following day. Health secretary Matt Hancock said it had become clear he did not have the backing to win. He came fifth in the poll among 313 Conservative MPs, with 20 of their votes.
Hancock said he had tried to run as the "candidate of the future" but found that "the party, understandably, is focused very much on the here and now, and how we get through Brexit." He did not say whom he now planned to support.
The Conservative party will hold more elimination rounds until two final contenders will be put to a vote of all 160,000 Conservative Party members nationwide. The winner will become Conservative leader and prime minister. The result is expected in late July.