Boris Johnson insists he can be trusted with ‘the great Lady Britannia’

Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson speaking during a Tory leadership hustings in Crooklands in Cumbria Credit: Peter Powell/PA

Boris Johnson has insisted he can be trusted with "the great Lady Britannia" during a round of hustings for the Tory crown in Carlisle.

The Tory leadership candidate defended his "chequered private life" at the event.

Mr Johnson, who saw his support dip after police were called to his home by neighbours after a late night row with his partner, was quizzed about his reliability by a Tory member.

"We know a lot of people have a worry about reliability with Boris and I think that’s the Achilles’ heel, with the chequered private life, can we trust you with the great lady Britannia?" the member asked.

The questioner added that the Conservatives’ "perfect leader" would be an "amalgam" of Mr Johnson and his rival Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Johnson replied: “Don’t look at what I say I do, look at what I do.”

He pointed towards having “"over delivered" on his promises as mayor of London, the 2012 Olympics and his record on action over the Skripal poisonings in Salisbury.

Mr Johnson speaking in Crooklands in Cumbria Credit: Peter Powell/PA

Mr Johnson described the Parliament of the United Kingdom as an "England parliament".

Asked about where there could be more English devolution for those who feel there is a "democratic deficit," Mr Johnson said: "I've often thought about that and actually I do think there's a case of devolution in England.

"There are things you can do. But I'm not convinced of the case of an England-only parliament. We have an England parliament, it's in Westminster.

"You can look at inspiring more local initiative and more local control and as Conservatives we should be interested in this, I think, by more fiscal devolution where that is sensible and where the tax base supports it and where it can be made to work."

Boris Johnson hit out at the BBC during the hustings debate. Credit: PA

Mr Johnson attacked the BBC as the "Brexit Bashing Corporation" and demanded they continue to fund free TV licences for people aged over 75.

He said: "What I will say is there has been a generous settlement, but because of all their highly-paid presenters they can't afford to look after the over-75s.

"Is the BBC here? Hi BBC, look after the over-75s please. Thank you."

When asked why welfare policy should be passed on to the national broadcaster, Mr Johnson said: "They accepted that as part of the deal - they are not children - they knew what the agreement was and they should stick to it."

"When it comes to negotiations across the world, after the Skripal poisonings in Salisbury we were tasked in the Foreign Office of trying to get some other countries, at least some, to expel Russian spies in support of the UK," he said.

"And we thought we would be lucky to get 10 expelled around the world

"Actually because we got on the phone, I personally got on the phone to a lot of my friends in other European capitals and elsewhere, we got 28 countries to expel 153 Russian spies.”

Rival candidate Jeremy Hunt had his own trustworthiness questioned by the audience.

Conservative party leadership contender Jeremy Hunt speaking during a Tory leadership hustings at Carlisle Racecourse Credit: Ian Forsyth/PA

When asked why he could be trusted to deliver Brexit when Theresa May had promised to leave the EU by March 29 more than 100 times and failed, Mr Hunt said he would not repeat her mistakes.

He said: "I’m going to do something very different from Theresa May, two things.

"First of all I’m not going to be trying to get her deal through the House of Commons… We should not have a deal which traps us in the Customs Union until the EU gives us permission to leave.

"I will be putting forward a deal that is different to Theresa May’s deal.

"And this is the really important change, I’m going to have a negotiating team that has in it people from different parts of the Conservative-DUP alliance that means that Brussels knows that what we promise to Brussels we can deliver through Parliament.”