Boris Johnson, the frontrunner to replace Theresa May as Britain’s prime minister, came under pressure on Friday to face the media over his Brexit plans as another of his rivals dropped out of the leadership battle.
Health minister Matt Hancock quit the battle to succeed May as Conservative Party leader, saying the party was looking for a candidate for the present not the future, leaving six contenders amongst whom Johnson is the overwhelming favorite.
He won the backing of 114 of 313 Conservative lawmakers in the first round of voting on Thursday, way ahead of foreign minister Jeremy Hunt who was second with 43 while three others were eliminated.
The issue dominating the contest is how and when Britain will leave the European Union and who is best placed to solve the crisis that has plunged the political establishment into turmoil since the 2016 referendum to leave the bloc.
May resigned as Conservative leader having failed three times to get her divorce deal with the EU through parliament. The EU has repeatedly said it will not renegotiate that deal.
Rivals turned their sights on Johnson who has pledged that Britain will leave on Oct. 31, whether or not a deal can be struck.
He argues that if Britain is prepared for a no-deal Brexit, the EU will bend to his argument to remove the so-called Northern Irish backstop to prevent a return to a hard border with Ireland if there is no agreed future trade deal.
But he has not yet agreed to take part in televised debates, the first of which takes place on Sunday, leading to accusations that the flamboyant former foreign secretary is avoiding difficult questions, in case any slip-up proves costly.
“We can only have that debate if our frontrunner in this campaign is a little bit braver in terms of getting out into the media, engaging in debates, engaging in the TV debate,” Hunt told BBC radio.
“What would Churchill say if somebody who wants to be prime minister of the United Kingdom was hiding away from the media, not taking part in these big occasions?”
The latter comment was a jibe at Johnson who wrote a biography of Britain’s World War Two leader.