Boris Johnson will finally appear in public to launch his campaign to be Tory leader on Wednesday, as one of his rivals cast doubt on whether he could be trusted with access to Britain’s nuclear codes.
Johnson, the frontrunner to succeed Theresa May, will take questions for the first time in the contest at his formal campaign event, where he will saying that “kicking the can” on Brexit would mean “kicking the bucket” for the Conservative party.
The former foreign secretary will want the focus of his launch to be on his Brexit policy, but his character and avoidance of scrutiny in the contest so far came under attack from rival candidates on Tuesday.
Rory Stewart, an outsider in the leadership race, became the first contender to criticise the former foreign secretary personally when he cast doubt on his competence.
Speaking to an audience of 600 members of the public, Stewart said: “Do you really feel that this is the person that you want engaging in the detail of the future of your health and education system? Is this the person you want writing the instruction to the nuclear submarines? Is this the man that you want embodying your nation and guiding you through the most difficult choice we’ve faced for 50 years?”
He said he “trusted the Conservative members to arrive at the correct answer”.
Two other candidates, Mark Harper and Matt Hancock, also implicitly criticised Johnson’s failure to submit himself to scrutiny in the contest so far, as all of the contenders apart from Johnson and Jeremy Hunt confirmed that they were happy to take part in television debates.
Harper, who has about six public backers among MPs, said all candidates must be open to public questioning and scrutiny, and that any other route would risk a similar situation to the 2017 general election, when Theresa May’s campaign style stumbled. Read more