Boris Johnson’s bid to become prime minister was thrown into chaos as it emerged police were called to the home he shares with partner Carrie Symonds/Press Association Reporters,PA Ready News UK/
As Mr Johnson geared up to go head to head with his challenger for the Tory crown, Jeremy Hunt, in the first run-off hustings on Saturday, questions over his private life dominated the battle for Downing Street.
Police officers were alerted early on Friday to an incident at the home Mr Johnson shares with Ms Symonds after neighbours said there had been a loud altercation involving screaming, shouting and banging, according to the Guardian.
At one point Ms Symonds was heard telling Mr Johnson to “get off me” and “get out of my flat”, The Guardian reported.
The newspaper said it had heard a recording of the incident in which Mr Johnson could allegedly be heard saying “get off my f****** laptop” before a loud crashing noise.
The Guardian said Ms Symonds could also be heard saying Mr Johnson had damaged a sofa with red wine.
“You just don’t care for anything because you’re spoilt. You have no care for money or anything,” Ms Symonds is reported to have said.
Scotland Yard said they were alerted to the situation by a caller who “was concerned for the welfare of a female neighbour”.
A neighbour, a 32-year-old nursery worker who would only give her name as Fatimah, said: “Just after midnight I heard a lady shouting, but I couldn’t make out what she said, then I heard plates and glasses smashing and things being thrown around.
“I was watching something on the television and I had to mute it because I was quite concerned, it was coming through the walls.”
Another neighbour, who did not want to be identified, told The Telegraph: “I heard the row, it was pretty loud. I was quite worried to be honest, it was bad.
“I heard a lot of smashing – it sounded like plates or glasses – and I could hear her shouting. It was definitely her; I didn’t hear him. There was a lot of shouting and swearing. It didn’t last that long, maybe five minutes.”
The Metropolitan Police said it had responded to a call from a local resident at 12.24am on Friday, but after officers attended it was deemed “there were no offences or concerns” and there was no cause for police action.
The revelations came as Mr Johnson prepared to face the Tory faithful with Mr Hunt at the hustings in Birmingham.
Ahead of the event, Mr Hunt attacked his rival over reports he was avoiding a live TV debate before postal ballots are returned.
Invoking Mr Johnson’s personal hero, Winston Churchill, in his criticism, the Foreign Secretary told the Daily Telegraph: “This is supposed to be his finest hour … but if you’re going to hide away, that’s not democracy.
“He may be the right man, I may be the right man. But Conservative Party members can only make that choice if you have a proper debate.
“And you can’t have that debate if one of the candidates is bottling all opportunities to have a public head-to-head debate before ballot papers are sent out.”
Mr Hunt said that “scrutiny can be uncomfortable”, but “if we can’t handle it with friends, we won’t deserve to lead against our opponents”.
Tory grassroots will gather on Saturday as reports of the row feature across the front pages.
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve said the issue of character is relevant in the Conservative leadership race as party members choose between Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt.
Mr Grieve told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think the issue of any candidate’s character, standing for the leadership of a party, and aiming to be a Prime Minister is going to be relevant.
“And has to be relevant because they are going to be in a position of responsibility where they have to make very important decisions.
“I think one has got to be a bit careful about what aspects of character really matter.
“But, clearly, things like reliability and honesty are very important things.
“And, I think they matter in one’s private and personal life, and also they matter in one’s public life.
“So, people are going to have to weigh that up in respect of either of these two candidates.”
Mr Johnson’s team have declined to comment on the reports, while his supporters remained largely quiet on Friday.
Security minister Ben Wallace, who is a close ally of Mr Johnson, said in a tweet to a Sun journalist, which has since been deleted: “What a non story ‘couple have row.’ Lefty neighbours give recording to Guardian. Newspaper reaches new low is a better news story.”
In a second reply, responding to a Twitter user questioning his suggestion it was a “non story”, Mr Wallace referred to domestic abuse, saying: “Didn’t say DA was a non story. It is incredibly serious. But the report said ‘row’.”
Tim Sinclair, a member of the Stratford-on-Avon Conservatives and a candidate in recent local elections, said he expects the incident will “puff up and blow away”.
“I suspect that this isn’t going to be a good story for him, he wouldn’t have ideally wanted it,” he told BBC Newsnight.
“However, ironically despite his background, he’s actually regarded as a man of the people purely because he acts normally – he speaks his mind, he does things and behaves in ways that normal people can look at.
“While this isn’t what you might call normal, having police come to your door, actually it shows him to be a real human being; having a row that gets a bit out of hand.”
Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP Mr Johnson announced last autumn that he and his wife Marina Wheeler were divorcing after 25 years of marriage.
The couple said the decision had been taken some months earlier.
Announcement of the split came after newspaper allegations about Mr Johnson having had another extra-marital affair.
The revelations about Mr Johnson followed a day of turmoil for the Tories which saw a difficult by-election looming after Chris Davies was ousted as the Tory MP for Brecon and Radnorshire after constituents signed a petition to remove him following a conviction for faking expenses claims.
And Chief Whip Julian Smith promised an investigation after MP Antoinette Sandbach was called a “disgrace” by an unnamed male colleague.
Meanwhile, Mark Field, an ally of Mr Hunt, was suspended as a Foreign Office minister after manhandling a climate change protester at a black-tie dinner.