Party faithful back Johnson’s refusal to answer questions about incident at flat
Most of the Tory faithful at Birmingham’s International Convention Centre appeared to be solidly behind Boris Johnson’s refusal to answer questions about police being called to his flat.
Although a handful of members of the 1,000-strong audience wanted the former foreign secretary to respond, hundreds more noisily urged moderator Iain Dale to move on as he repeatedly quizzed Mr Johnson about the incident.
Canvassed for their views outside the hall, all but one party member approached by the Press Association said the incident was irrelevant to Mr Johnson’s suitability to lead the country.
Ahmed Ejaz, who joined the Tories three years ago, said of Mr Johnson’s performance: “I thought he was awesome – I think Boris was right not to sort of draw on that (what happened on Friday) in a debate like today.
“It’s not going to influence my vote. I think he has done a great job so far as Foreign Secretary and as an MP.
“So I don’t see it as any issue at all.”
Conservative councillor Alex Yip, who serves on Birmingham city council, said Friday’s incident should be taken into account in considering Mr Johnson’s character – but he had yet to decide whether to back him or rival Jeremy Hunt.
Asked if a victory for Mr Johnson was a foregone conclusion, Mr Yip added: “It’s everything to play for but he’s the front-runner and it’s for him to lose.”
A self-described long-standing member of the party faithful, who said he would definitely vote for Mr Johnson, opted not to stay to hear Mr Hunt’s pitch for the leadership.
The man, who declined to be named, said of Mr Johnson: “I thought he was very good. Apart from the obvious question about Friday, he was pretty candid.
“He had no reason to be candid about that anyway as that’s none of our business is it? I have had a few rows with my wife.
“I think he’s as suitable (to be PM) as any other MP would be.”
Another party member said she had come to the hustings with an open mind but had viewed Mr Johnson as “strong” in the way that he stood up to Mr Dale.
Commenting on whether Friday’s police call-out affected her view of Mr Johnson, Linda Alford, from Solihull, said: “It’s his private life and he’s entitled to some privacy.
“I think what’s happening with Brexit and the country is far more important than somebody having some sort of domestic altercation.
“The interviewer seemed determined to give Boris a rough ride. Boris showed a bit of strength in the way he dealt with that first question.
“Whoever gets the top job has got a huge task ahead of them.
“I think we need somebody really strong and forceful to get the country going and sort everything out for us.”