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Johnson bails on second leadership debate after skipping Chanel 4's event

TORY leadership hopeful Boris Johnson was a no-show again today at a parliamentary lobby hustings after he wimped out of a TV debate the night before.

The former foreign secretary and frontrunner to be the next Conservative prime minister was absent from the closed-door hustings attended by about 100 lobby journalists, having already missed Channel 4’s live debate last night.

The five other remaining candidates — Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab, and Rory Stewart — turned up.

A second ballot of Tory MPs takes place tomorrow. Candidates with fewer than 33 votes will be eliminated from the contest.

At the hustings, self-styled “outsider” — and International Development Secretary — Mr Stewart accused Mr Johnson of making contrary promises to different MPs over Britain leaving the EU.

He said: “Somehow he’s convinced Matt Hancock that he agrees with every word that Matt says, that he’s in favour of the softest of soft Brexits.

“He’s convinced Robert Buckland that he would never go for a no-deal, and at the same time he’s got Mark Francois roaring: ‘This man looked me in the eyes and promised we’re going out on the hardest of no-deal Brexits’.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said that the electorate will “vote for change in the form of Jeremy Corbyn” if they do not get a “credible ‘change’ candidate” as prime minister. He claimed that he has “broadest appeal” to younger people, women and those with ethnic minority backgrounds.

Environment Secretary Mr Gove claimed he is the only Tory leadership candidate able to “strike fear” into Mr Corbyn. He told the hustings: “I don’t believe that any of the other candidates will strike fear into his heart in quite the way that I have proven that I can.”

Candidates have been invited to take part in a live BBC One debate tonight before another ballot tomorrow and a possible fourth on Thursday.

It emerged today that former Brexit secretary Mr Raab acquired an unfortunate nickname among the negotiators in Brussels:  “Raap” is Dutch for turnip.

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