(Bloomberg) -- After Boris Johnson built a huge lead in his bid to become British prime minister, rivals are holding talks over joining forces to stop him from running away with the contest. They called on Johnson to commit to live TV debates, and Jeremy Hunt accused him of “hiding away” to avoid scrutiny.

Key Developments:

  • Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Health Secretary Matt Hancock met to discuss options after Johnson won 114 votes in the first ballot of MPs
  • Pressure is building on Johnson to take part in TV debates; Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt accused him of “hiding away”
  • Development Secretary Rory Stewart said he would serve in a Johnson government, despite the recent acrimony

Hunt Says Johnson Is ‘Hiding Away’ (9:15 a.m.)

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who came second in Thursday’s ballot, said Boris Johnson should take part in televised leadership debates to allow proper scrutiny. He referred to wartime leader Winston Churchill -- about whom the front-runner has written a book -- as he urged him to be more open.

“What would Churchill say if someone who wants to be prime minister of the United Kingdom is hiding away from the media?” Hunt asked in an interview on BBC Radio 4. “Anyone who wants that job should have the courage to put themselves forward, engage with the media and engage with the public.”

Hunt said he could negotiate a better “package’’ with the European Union and offer more choices than Johnson, who has committed to leaving the bloc by Oct. 31. Hunt said he would only agree to a no-deal divorce “in extremis.”

“His hard stop on October 31 is effectively saying the best we can offer the country is either a no-deal Brexit, or a general election if Parliament succeeds in stopping that no-deal Brexit,’’ Hunt said. “We need to ask is that the best for the country, are there some better choices?”

Umunna Said Mistake to Try to Build New Party (Earlier)

Chuka Umunna, the former Labour MP who announced late Thursday he had joined the Liberal Democrats after a short spell with Change UK, said his involvement in trying to form a new party had been a mistake.

“It’s quite clear there isn’t room for more than one center-ground option, particularly under first past the post, in British politics,’’ he told BBC Radio. “What people actually wanted us to do was to work together in the center ground with existing forces to build the strongest possible vehicle to take us forward.’’

Umunna, who described himself as “unapologetically internationalist,” said there is no way to both end austerity and “sponsor Brexit in the way the two main parties are doing.”


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To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Emma Ross-Thomas at erossthomas@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Thomas Penny

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