Boris Johnson rejected criticism of his Tory leadership campaign during a “walkabout” visit to Surrey alongside his ousted former contender Dominic Raab.
The front-runner to become Britain’s next prime minister also flatly refused to comment on a photograph of him with girlfriend Carrie Symonds, which was published in the media after police were called to an incident at her home.
Mr Johnson visited Oxshott, part of Mr Raab’s Esher and Walton constituency, on Tuesday afternoon, visiting several local businesses to push his leadership agenda.
He posed for photos during a brief stop at a cafe, before spending £4.50 on fennel and tarragon sausages in a butcher shop then stopping for a drink in a pub.
Asked by the Press Association whether criticism of his campaign so far – and willingness to face scrutiny – was fair, he said: “I think that question is beyond satire.
“We’re out campaigning and we’re getting a fantastic response.”
He said he had “not noticed” comments surrounding his apparent lack of public appearances, or decision to dodge debates with his opponent, Jeremy Hunt.
Tonight I was meant to be debating Boris Johnson on Sky, answering questions about our plans for Britain. Sadly, Boris has pulled out – which I don't believe is fair on you, the public. So from 8pm I will be answering as many of your questions as poss – tweet me using #BoJoNoShow
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) June 25, 2019
“What I’m concentrating on is making sure we come out (of the EU) on October 31, uniting our party and our country, and getting ready to defeat Jeremy Corbyn,” Mr Johnson said.
In a separate broadcast interview, he repeatedly declined to answer questions about the photograph of him with Ms Symonds.
“I don’t comment on that kind of thing,” he said, adding that to do so would break “a long standing rule which has served me well for decades”.
Mr Raab told the Press Association that Mr Johnson had “stepped up” his campaigning amid the media vacuum.
“He’s certainly stepped it up,” he said. “I don’t think he’s shrugged any of the difficult questions.”
Pointing to Mr Johnson’s recent interviews with the BBC and LBC, Mr Raab said: “I think the more people see of him, the more his momentum builds, but of course people will try and fire whatever they can at the front-runner.”
He also said he was confident in Mr Johnson’s pledge to leave the European Union by Halloween.
Mr Johnson had arrived in Oxshott at around 3.30pm before visiting the Munch & Wiggles cafe, where he drank a cup of tea with supporters.
He then walked across the road to Surrey Hills Butchers, where he was shown a selection of the meats, spoke to staff about his policies and bought a pack of sausages.
Barely a sip and he's now over the road inspecting meat in the local butcher's. pic.twitter.com/QMqOJWYrUR
— Lewis Pennock (@PennockPost) June 25, 2019
The owner, Simon Taylor, said Mr Johnson spoke about apprenticeships, local businesses and Brexit.
“He touched on quite a few things that matter to us,” said Mr Taylor.