BORIS Johnson was branded a “bottler” today after he forced Sky to cancel a planned TV leadership debate.
The broadcaster announced it had postponed a showdown between Boris and Jeremy Hunt tomorrow because the frontrunner had “declined the invitation”.
Sky offered up a new date of July 1 – next Monday – in a desperate bid to secure the pair.
But Jeremy Hunt’s campaign team accused Boris of running scared.
A source said: “Bottler Boris and his complacent campaign have shown they can’t trust their candidate to turn up and perform.”
And the Foreign Secretary’s spokesman added: “Whoever wants to be Prime Minister must face up now to the intense scrutiny that comes with the job, anything less is deeply disrespectful to our members.”
“Trying to duck debates and run down the clock until after postal ballots have been returned is just cynical and complacent.”
Mr Johnson has so far only agreed to two head-to-head debates – one on ITV News and one with The Sun, aired by Talk Radio.
But critics point out that both are taking place only after ballot papers for postal votes in the leadership election are sent out to Tory members.
Boris last September backed Sky’s campaign for TV debates to become a regular fixture of UK elections.
At the time he declared: “My feeling is that they are essential and the public does need to see interchange between their political leaders.”
MOST READ IN POLITICS
Hours before yesterday’s cancellation, Jeremy Hunt had turned heads by urging his rival not to be “coward” about facing public scrutiny.
In a stinging attack, the typically reserved Foreign Secretary said Boris should “man up” and debate him this week. Writing in The Times, he called for a “fair and open contest, not that one side is trying to rig to avoid scrutiny”.
Mr Johnson contested a BBC debate last week after ducking a Channel 4 showdown with his rivals just days before. The broadcaster replaced him with an empty chair.
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online politics team? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 782 4368. We pay for videos too. Click here to upload yours