Boris Johnson has insisted he can be trusted with ‘the great Lady Britannia’.
The Tory leadership candidate defended his “chequered private life” at a hustings in Carlisle.
Mr Johnson, who saw his support dip after police were called to his home by neighbours after a late night row with his partner, was quizzed about his reliability by a Tory member.
“We know a lot of people have a worry about reliability with Boris and I think that’s the Achilles’ heel, with the chequered private life, can we trust you with the great lady Britannia?” the member asked.
The questioner added that the Conservatives’ “perfect leader” would be an “amalgam” of Mr Johnson and his rival Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Johnson replied: “Don’t look at what I say I do, look at what I do.”
He pointed towards having “over delivered” on his promises as mayor of London, the 2012 Olympics and his record on action over the Skripal poisonings in Salisbury.
“When it comes to negotiations across the world, after the Skripal poisonings in Salisbury we were tasked in the Foreign Office of trying to get some other countries, at least some, to expel Russian spies in support of the UK,” he said.
“And we thought we would be lucky to get 10 expelled around the world
“Actually because we got on the phone, I personally got on the phone to a lot of my friends in other European capitals and elsewhere, we got 28 countries to expel 153 Russian spies.”
Rival candidate Jeremy Hunt had his own trustworthiness questioned by the audience.
When asked why he could be trusted to deliver Brexit when Theresa May had promised to leave the EU by March 29 more than 100 times and failed, Mr Hunt said he would not repeat her mistakes.
He said: “I’m going to do something very different from Theresa May, two things.
“First of all I’m not going to be trying to get her deal through the House of Commons… We should not have a deal which traps us in the Customs Union until the EU gives us permission to leave.
“I will be putting forward a deal that is different to Theresa May’s deal.
“And this is the really important change, I’m going to have a negotiating team that has in it people from different parts of the Conservative-DUP alliance that means that Brussels knows that what we promise to Brussels we can deliver through Parliament.”