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21st Jun 2019

Boris isn’t avoiding the other leadership candidates, he’s avoiding himself

There are more similarities between Boris Johnson and Theresa May than you might think

Oli Dugmore

Boris Johnson eats a meal alone

There are more similarities between Boris Johnson and Theresa May than you might think

During the 2017 general election, the BBC hosted a televised debate between the leaders of the major political parties. All the leaders, that is, apart from Theresa May. She sent out Amber Rudd to bat for her. During the Brexit referendum campaign Rudd put in a good showing for the Remain side and because Theresa May is, well, Theresa May she deployed her home secretary rather than face Jeremy Corbyn.

Two years later and it’s a new Tory leader, same old story. Sky News was due to host a debate between the remaining candidates in the race to be prime minister, Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, except only one of them was going to turn up.

Boris refused and now the debate has been cancelled.

It’s not even the first time Boris has ducked a debate in this contest. When the field still featured six candidates Channel 4 played host to five of them. Johnson allowed the then surging Rory Stewart to exact his punishing no deal rhetoric on Dominic Raab, it worked. Raab dropped out at the next vote.

And now all comers bar one are left.

Jeremy Hunt is the least threatening opponent to Johnson, what’s left of vanilla after extract. Johnson knows the biggest threat to his securing of the No 10 keys is himself.

It’s standard practice for a front runner to avoid situations that can so obviously jeopardise their lead. That’s usually moderated by a basic appreciation of the tenets of democracy – that politicians are not demagogues, that they deserve scrutiny and are accountable.

Boris Johnson doesn’t even trust himself against Jeremy Hunt, and yet thinks he can outsmart the European Union.