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LONDON: Boris Johnson failed to shut down questions about his private life on Tuesday as a round of media appearances served only to bog him down further in questions about character and trust.

Johnson, who is running to be the next leader for both the Conservative Party and the nation, has refused to address personal questions despite an ongoing clamour to face public scrutiny after a reported quarrel with his girlfriend last week prompted a police visit.

In break from his previous strategy, the front-runner took part in three interviews in less than 24 hours, responding to challenger Jeremy Hunt’s criticism that he was a “coward” and needed to face greater public scrutiny if he is to become prime minister.

Johnson toughened his stance on Britain’s pending departure from the European Union, promising he would take the country out of the bloc by Halloween “do or die.” He challenged Hunt to do the same. But the personal issues were never far away.

Speaking on LBC radio, Johnson was questioned over a picture showing him and girlfriend Carrie Symonds in the leafy Sussex countryside amid speculation that it was staged and released by his campaign.

Symonds, a former Conservative Party press officer, has remained firmly out of the public eye since the reported quarrel Friday when a neighbour hear shouting, screaming and banging at the home the couple shares.

“The difficulty is that the minute you say one thing, you obviously are bringing people, your loved ones, your family, into the public domain in a way that is not fair,” Johnson said.

Asked where the photograph had come from and when it was taken, Johnson said “the longer we spend on things extraneous to what I want to do ... the bigger the waste of time.” LBC host Nick Ferrari pressed on. He said the picture showed Johnson with a hairstyle he no longer wears and suggested it was an old image. Johnson simply refused to answer.

PM to be announced July 23

The winner of the contest to replace Theresa May as leader of Britain’s ruling Conservatives and prime minister will be announced on July 23, the ruling party said on Tuesday.

Former foreign minister Boris Johnson is currently the favourite in the race, battling his successor as Britain’s top diplomat, Jeremy Hunt.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2019