Boris Johnson must not be allowed to dodge public scrutiny – Ian Swanson

Boris Johnson has adopted a low key strategy. Picture: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images
Boris Johnson has adopted a low key strategy. Picture: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images
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It’s a nightmare on Downing Street for some – and the dream ticket for others, writes Ian Swanson.

It was the improbable, outlandish scenario people once used to joke about – Donald Trump as American president and Boris Johnson as British prime minister. Just imagine what kind of world that would be, they said.

But now the nightmare looks set to come true.

Hardly anyone was expecting Mr Trump to get to the White House in 2016, just as no one expected the UK to vote for Brexit three years ago this week.

Now Mr Trump is running for a second term and the man who led the Leave campaign is favourite to take over the helm of the Tory party and walk straight into No 10.

The two men have much in ­common, from their bizarre hair and blustering manner to their cavalier style, objectionable views and ­offensive behaviour.

One pundit branded Mr Johnson “Trump with a greater vocabulary”.

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But there are also signs they share a Teflon coating, which means scandals and revelations which could easily bring down other politicians somehow fail to stick.

During the 2016 presidential election, a video emerged of Donald Trump discussing grabbing women by the genitals, which was greeted with horror, but it seemed to have no effect on his poll ratings.

Mr Johnson, having kept a low profile during the MPs’ stage of the Conservatives leadership contest for fear of committing some damaging blunder or faux pas, found himself all over the front pages at the weekend, just as the campaign switched to the membership, because police had been called to his girlfriend’s flat after neighbours heard banging, shouting and screaming.

But the initial reaction suggested the frontrunner to become next Tory leader and prime minister would escape pretty unscathed.

Tory activists booed when a journalist interviewing Mr Johnson at the first party hustings for members tried to ask him about the incident. They didn’t want to know.

However, bookmakers say the row is now beginning to have an impact on the odds.

A poll showed Mr Johnson’s previous eight per cent lead with the general public had been replaced by a three per cent lead for his rival Jeremy Hunt.

Critics say Mr Johnson’s character, in a broad sense, is the central issue of the leadership contest. His noisy falling out with his latest girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Mr Johnson was sacked by The Times as a journalist for making up a quote and sacked from the shadow cabinet for lying to leader Michael Howard about an affair he was ­having. He has at least one child from an extra-marital relationship and another mistress had an abortion.

In the 1990s, he was recorded promising to provide the address of a journalist who a friend wanted to have beaten up. Mr Johnson insists he never passed on the details.

Some 40 per cent of Tory members agree Mr Johnson cannot be trusted to tell the truth, but they still want him as leader by a margin of three to one.

The former Foreign Secretary has never been a big hit in Scotland – and that applies to the Tory leadership here as much as the public at large.

As the controversy continues to rage, Mr Johnson has refused to take part in a Sky TV debate tonight with Mr Hunt. But a man who wants to be prime minister cannot hide behind the sofa like a sulky child – or can he?