Sky News postpones debate as Boris Johnson fails to reply to invite

24 June 2019, 10:31 | Updated: 24 June 2019, 12:29

Sky News has postponed a planned leadership debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

The head-to-head live broadcast was due to take place on Tuesday night - and although Mr Hunt had agreed to take part, Mr Johnson has so far declined the invitation.

A Sky spokesman said: "We stand ready to host a debate tomorrow evening if both candidates make themselves available.

"Without both candidates, tomorrow's debate will not take place.

"But we will reissue our invitation for Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson to debate live on Sky News next Monday, July 1."

In an earlier interview with Sky News' Sunrise programme, Mr Hunt said he was prepared to carry on with the event, held in front of an audience of Conservative voters, with an empty chair for his opponent.

Mr Hunt called Mr Johnson a "coward" in a piece for The Times on Monday - saying his opponent had to answer questions about his plans in office.

He wrote: "Only then can you walk through the front door of No 10 with your head held high instead of slinking through the back door, which is what Boris appears to want.

"Don't be a coward Boris, man up and show the nation you can cope with the intense scrutiny the most difficult job in the country will involve."

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He also said Mr Johnson was disrespecting Conservative Party members by not turning up to as many debates.

On Sunday, Mr Hunt told Sky News that he thought any candidate for prime minister needs to "engage properly".

He said: "This is an audition to be prime minister of the United Kingdom, and Boris needs to show that he's prepared to answer difficult questions."

Mr Johnson's supporters came out in force on Monday morning, following a weekend where campaigning was overshadowed by revelations that police were called to the south London flat he has been sharing with his girlfriend Carrie Symonds after neighbours heard screaming.

Priti Patel MP said the matter was "done and dusted" and that it was a private issue.

She told Sky News that people had lost sight of the big challenges the country faced by focusing on the row between the couple.

Ms Patel also said Mr Johnson had been out campaigning and speaking to grassroots members of the party - as well as participating in last week's live BBC debate.