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Why is Boris Johnson not taking part in Channel 4's Conservative leadership debate?

The frontrunner claims the event would be "cacophonous"

Published: Sunday, 16th June 2019 at 6:00 pm

Viewers of Channel 4’s Conservative leadership debate may notice a significant absence: Boris Johnson. The frontrunner declined to take part in proceedings, which he claimed would be “cacophonous.”


“I think it is important that we have a sensible grown-up debate,” he told the BBC’s World at One. “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.”

Who are the other Conservative Party leadership candidates? 

Alongside Boris the other remaining candidates are Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart.

They have all signalled their intention to attend Britain's Next PM: The C4 Debate which will be moderated by Krishnan Guru-Murthy (Sunday 16th June, 6.30pm Channel 4) and features floating voters putting questions to the candidates.

Who is leading the race to become the next Tory party leader? 

Johnson came out of the first round of voting on Thursday 13th June with a commanding lead – winning 114 votes from Conservative MPs, with his closest rivals Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove at 43 and 37 votes respectively – and thus has everything to lose from appearing with his competitors.

His rivals signed a joint statement on Thursday night, calling the contest a “critical moment for our country and our party.”

"This leadership contest provides an important opportunity to debate, to shape and to define the ideas which will underpin those competing visions. That is why we are committed to taking part in the Channel 4 televised debates this Sunday and the BBC programme next Tuesday."

What happens if Boris Johnson refuses to take part in the Channel 4 debate? 

Channel 4 previously threatened to ‘empty chair’ Johnson if he did not show up (leaving an empty lectern in his place to highlight his absence).

Will Boris Johnson take part in any of the leadership debates? 

Johnson has agreed to at least one debate. The former Mayor of London will appear on a BBC debate on Tuesday 18th June.

Our Next Prime Minister, hosted by Emily Maitlis, will take place at 8pm, only two hours after the second round of voting has eliminated any candidate with fewer than 33 votes.

More voting rounds will be held until 20th June or only two candidates remain. Hustings start on 22nd June, when voting is opened to the wider Conservative party membership. Sky News has announced plans to screen a debate between the two finalists.

The winner of the Tory leadership election will become the United Kingdom’s next Prime Minister, but Johnson is not the first prospective Prime Minister to demur. Theresa May, who will vacate Number 10 for whoever wins the contest, refused to take part in televised debates prior to the 2017 general election.


Britain’s Next PM – The C4 Debate is on Sunday 16th June at 6:30pm


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