Boris Johnson is under increasing pressure to stop “hiding behind the sofa” and grant media interviews, having steered clear of the television cameras as the Tory leadership contest gets underway.
While the other nine candidates have granted multiple interviews, Johnson had remained tight-lipped even when journalists have a chance to get near him.
Tory MP Rishi Sunak, who is backing the former foreign secretary, claimed on Tuesday it was “clearly silly” to suggest Johnson was “not subjecting himself to scrutiny”.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Emma Barnett show, he said Johnson’s focus was on winning over Tory MPs behind closed doors.
Sunak added if voters wanted to understand Johnson’s policies they could read his columns in the Daily Telegraph - for which he is paid £275,000 a year to write.
But Barnett hit back: “It’s good that he only shares his view for money.”
And she asked him if he felt “a tiny bit uncomfortable” that the Daily Mail had accused Johnson of “hiding behind the sofa”.
Barnett also noted Johnson had not given an interview to the BBC’s Today programme, Andrew Marr Show or her own radio programme in all of 2019.
Rival leadership candidates have ramped up the pressure on Johnson to speak.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “everybody who puts their name forward to be prime minister should be open to scrutiny” and give broadcast interviews.
“I think everybody should participate in the proposed TV debates and I think we have got to ask the question, why not?,” he told BBC Radio 4′s today programme.
Hancock added the candidates should “come and be scrutinised because that is the best way to ensure that we get the best next prime minister”.
Mark Harper, the former Chief Whip who is seen as an underdog in the race, said Johnson must give journalists “clear answers” over whether he has taken cocaine.
Michael Gove, who has seen his campaign almost derailed by his confession to having taken the drug, used his launch yesterday to implicitly accuse Johnson of hiding “in his bunker”.
Asked if Boris Johnson’s own alleged cocaine use should be a matter for scrutiny, Gove ally Nicky Morgan said: “Let’s see whether it comes up in the hustings.
“One of the things that Michael said was that he was head of the Vote Leave campaign, he did not shy away from fronting up press scrutiny, he did the debates. We all know he [Boris] has not yet been seen very much by the press.”
Johnson is also under pressure from the media itself. The Daily Mail today also accused him of adopting a “bunker mentality” and not fighting back against his critics.
“Even though he’s the favourite, he can’t just sit back and hope to win by default,” the paper’s leader warns.
The paper accused him of “hiding behind the sofa” and demanded he “show us what you’ve got”.