Boris Johnson takes his fight to be Britain’s next prime minister to the country against a lurid backdrop of newspaper front page stories about an alleged altercation with his partner Carrie Symonds in the early hours of Friday.
Mr Johnson travels to Birmingham on Saturday for the first round of hustings in front of some of the 160,000 or so Conservative members who will next month choose the successor to Theresa May as Conservative leader. The meeting starts at 3pm.
Media coverage of Mr Johnson’s private life appeared to support the view at Westminster that unexpected events may turn out to be the biggest threat to his apparently clear path to a coronation.
Jeremy Hunt, foreign secretary and a former Remainer, will also attend the West Midlands hustings and is presenting himself as a safe pair of hands. Mr Hunt has been keen to talk about his marriage to his Chinese wife Lucia, in an apparent attempt to draw a contrast with Mr Johnson’s chaotic private life.
Scotland Yard confirmed that police attended the home shared by Mr Johnson and Ms Symonds, a former Tory staffer and environment campaigner, after reports by a neighbour of shouting and banging.
The incident, emblazoned across many front pages, may be used by Mr Johnson’s critics to question his character, although some Tory members planning to attend the Birmingham hustings said that it was a domestic row and should remain private.
Much will depend on what happens next; Mr Johnson and Ms Symonds had not responded to the incident by Saturday morning; the Johnson camp were keeping their candidate locked down and were making no comment.
Although details of the row at the south London home have been widely reported there has so far been no release of the audio allegedly recorded by the neighbour. If such a recording was made public, it might add to Mr Johnson’s embarrassment.