UK Politics

Tory leadership: Boris Johnson to take part in BBC TV debate

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Media captionJohnson: I want grown-up discussion

Boris Johnson has said he will take part in Tuesday's televised Tory leadership debate on the BBC.

The frontrunner in the contest to replace Theresa May said the programme, which will be shown after the second round of MPs' voting, was the right forum to debate the big issues.

Rival candidates have accused Mr Johnson of avoiding media scrutiny.

He said he was "very keen" on TV debates but viewers might not like too much "blue-on-blue action".

Mr Johnson, however, will not be taking part in Sunday's debate on Channel 4, with his team reportedly having reservations about its proposed format.

The other five candidates still in the race become Tory leader and prime minister - Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Rory Stewart and Dominic Raab - have urged Mr Johnson to take part in every TV debate.

They say the next prime minister should be subjected to the fullest possible scrutiny.

'Cacophonous'

Mr Johnson, a former Foreign Secretary, won the first Tory MPs' ballot for the contest on Thursday with 114 votes, with his nearest rival - Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt - getting 43.

He told the BBC Radio 4's World at One he had done many TV debates during his two successful London mayoral campaigns and he was "pretty bewildered" by claims he was dodging scrutiny.

"I think it is important that we have a sensible, grown-up debate," he said, ahead of next week's BBC event.

"My own observation is that in the past when you've had loads of candidates, it can be slightly cacophonous and I think the public have had quite a lot of blue-on-blue action, frankly, over the last three years."

He added: "We don't necessarily need a lot more of that, and so what I think the best solution would be would be to have a debate on what we all have to offer the country.

"The best time to do that, I think, would be after the second ballot on Tuesday and the best forum is the proposed BBC debate. I think that's a good idea."

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Johnson defended his record as foreign secretary and said the UK must step up preparations for a no-deal Brexit as a way of getting an improved deal.

He said it was "perfectly realistic" to renegotiate the withdrawal deal and leave the EU by the end of October, adding that the "fundamental flaw" in Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement was the Irish border "backstop" and a solution was possible.

"In the meantime, it's absolutely crucial to prepare for no deal and I don't share the deep pessimism of some people about the consequences of no deal," he said.

"That's not to say that I don't think there will be some difficulties that need to be addressed and we must make sure that we can address them."

Asked when he last took cocaine, he replied that there had been "a single inconclusive event that took place when I was a teenager" and never since then.

He said those who criticised his handling, as foreign secretary, of the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman who is imprisoned in Iran was "unintentionally exculpating the people who are really responsible and that is the Iranian Revolutionary Guard".

The UK's next prime minister

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who came sixth in the first MPs' ballot, has withdrawn from the leadership contest.

Our Next Prime Minister, hosted by Emily Maitlis, will be broadcast on BBC One at 20:00 BST on Tuesday.

A maximum of five candidates will take part, as the person who gets the lowest number of votes in that day's second ballot of Tory MPs will drop out of the contest beforehand.

The participants will face questions from viewers across the country via local TV studios.

Further MPs' ballots are scheduled to take place next Wednesday and Thursday to whittle down the contenders until only two are left.

The final pair will be put to a vote of the 160,000 members of the Conservative Party from 22 June. The winner is expected to be announced about four weeks later.

On Tuesday 18 June BBC One will host a live election debate between the Conservative MPs still in the race.

If you would like to ask the candidates a question live on air, use the form below. It should be open to all of them, not a specific politician.

If you are reading this page on the BBC News app, you will need to visit the mobile version of the BBC website to submit your question on this topic.