When at the launch of the Boris campaign a fortnight ago the Sky journalist, Beth Rigby, sought to raise the question of character she got loudly booed by many of those attending. It was the same yesterday at the the first hustings in Birmingham when Iain Dale sought to raise the issue that’s been dominating the news with Johnson. This didn’t come over well on TV.
Yet that is now what the campaign is becoming about and it is hard to see how this is beneficial to the ex-Mayor and Foreign Secretary who continues to be an 80% plus chance in the betting.
What we don’t know, of course, is what the mainly male Tory members are going to make of all of this. Certainly Boris is very good at making headlines but the ones today are surely not helping his campaign and are a reminder of the potential risk that there might be in him becoming the next leader and Prime Minister.
I think Johnson has also made the Theresa May mistake in not wanting to take part in the TV debates. We saw just two years ago how totally damaging that was for the Prime Minister and surely the member for Uxbridge must have observed and absorbed.
Even though it is Tory members who make the final decision in this instance there is a public expectation that politicians are going to come under scrutiny at a time when they are seeking to get the job. Judging the the Times this morning Jeremy Hunt sees a way of exploiting Johnson’s approach:
“Mr Hunt says that Tory members want a “fair and open contest, not one that one side is trying to rig to avoid scrutiny”.
“One of the strengths of our system is that we scrutinise our politicians with more intelligent ferocity than anywhere else in the world. But in this case it just isn’t happening,” he writes.
“Nothing could be worse for a new prime minister in these challenging times than to come to power with a fake contest.”
Now the question is whether Boris and his advisers are able to move on and get the focus on things that are more positive to him.