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Boris Johnson under pressure to 'explain' late-night incident after neighbour goes public

MP Liam Fox said today it would be “easier” for the Tory leadership contender to clarify what happened.

Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during hustings in Birmingham yesterday
Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson during hustings in Birmingham yesterday
Image: Rui Vieira/PA Images

Updated Jun 23rd 2019, 1:35 PM

THE UK’S INTERNATIONAL Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said it would be “easier” for Tory leadership contender Boris Johnson to “just give an explanation” after police were called to Johnson’s home on Friday following reports of a domestic row. 

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show about the row today, Fox – who backs Johnson’s contest rival Jeremy Hunt – said that “the key thing is then how you get on to the issues.”

“What we can’t have is it being a distraction from explanations about wider policy.”

Fox’s comments come after a neighbour who called police following a row at Johnson’s home this week has come forward and defended his recording of the incident.

Tom Penn, who lives beside the London property where a row involving Johnson took place, told The Guardian that he wanted to go public because of “bizarre and fictitious allegations” put to him and his wife since the incident was reported.

On Friday, the newspaper reported that London’s Metropolitan Police had been called to the home Johnson shares with partner Carrie Symonds in the early hours of Friday by someone “concerned for the welfare of a female neighbour”.

The newspaper also said that neighbours had reported hearing screaming, shouting and banging, and claimed to have a recording of the altercation.

Police later said that all occupants had been “safe and well” after they visited the property and that no offences had been committed.

But in a statement released to The Guardian last night, Penn clarified why he had made the recording, saying that he first told the newspaper about the story as a matter of public interest.

‘I felt frightened and concerned’

Describing the incident from his side, Penn said he first heard shouting when he was on the street outside his house while collecting food from a delivery driver.

“On the way back into my flat, it became clear that the shouting was coming from a neighbour’s flat,” he said.

“It was loud enough and angry enough that I felt frightened and concerned for the welfare of those involved, so I went inside my own home, closed the door, and pressed record on the voice memos app on my phone.

“After a loud scream and banging, followed by silence, I ran upstairs, and with my wife agreed that we should check on our neighbours.

“I knocked three times at their front door, but there was no response. I went back upstairs into my flat, and we agreed that we should call the police.”

Penn told the newspaper that police arrived to the flat in five minutes, and that his call was made anonymously.

He also said police subsequently called him back to thank him for reporting the incident, and was told nobody had been harmed during the altercation, adding:

My sole concern up until this point was the welfare and safety of our neighbours. I hope that anybody would have done the same thing.

Private citizens

Penn also claimed that, since reports of the story broke on Friday evening, he and his partner had become the subject of “unpleasant”, “bizarre and fictitious allegations”.

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He said his neighbours in the area had been “harangued by the media”, which had been an “upsetting” experience.

He asked the media to leave private citizens alone and focus on individuals like Johnson who have chosen to occupy public office.

“The attempts from some areas of the press to instead focus their stories on us, and in particular my wife, have been eye-opening, and very alarming,” he said.

“I would encourage anyone to record any instances where they feel concerned for another person’s safety.”

Johnson is favourite in a two-person race to become leader of the Conservative Party and Britain’s next prime minister.

During a hustings event in Birmingham, the first time the Conservative MP appeared in public since the incident came to light, he refused to address why police were called to his home.

“I don’t think people want to hear about that kind of thing,” Johnson told an interviewer, before focusing on his policies.

With reporting from Cónal Thomas

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