Boris Johnson’s bid to become prime minister was thrown into further chaos as it emerged police were called to the home he shares with partner Carrie Symonds.
As Johnson geared up to go head to head with his challenger for the Tory crown, Jeremy Hunt, in the first run-off hustings, questions over his private life dominated the battle for Downing Street.
Police officers were alerted early on Friday to an incident at the home Johnson shares with Symonds after neighbours said there had been a loud altercation involving screaming, shouting and banging, according to the Guardian.
At one point Symonds was heard telling Johnson to “get off me” and “get out of my flat”, the newspaper reported.
Scotland Yard said they were alerted to the situation by a caller who “was concerned for the welfare of a female neighbour”.
A neighbour, a 32-year-old nursery worker who would only give her name as Fatimah, said: “Just after midnight I heard a lady shouting, but I couldn’t make out what she said, then I heard plates and glasses smashing and things being thrown around.
“I was watching something on the television and I had to mute it because I was quite concerned, it was coming through the walls.”
Another neighbour, who did not want to be identified, told the Telegraph: “I heard the row, it was pretty loud. I was quite worried to be honest, it was bad.
“I heard a lot of smashing – it sounded like plates or glasses – and I could hear her shouting. It was definitely her; I didn’t hear him. There was a lot of shouting and swearing. It didn’t last that long, maybe five minutes.”
The Metropolitan Police said it had responded to a call from a local resident at 12.24am on Friday, but after officers attended it was deemed “there were no offences or concerns” and there was no cause for police action.
The revelations came as Johnson prepared to face the Tory faithful with Hunt at the hustings in Birmingham.
Ahead of the event, Hunt attacked his rival over reports he was avoiding a live TV debate before postal ballots are returned.
Invoking Johnson’s personal hero, Winston Churchill, in his criticism, the foreign secretary told the Telegraph: “This is supposed to be his finest hour … but if you’re going to hide away, that’s not democracy.
“He may be the right man, I may be the right man. But Conservative Party members can only make that choice if you have a proper debate.
“And you can’t have that debate if one of the candidates is bottling all opportunities to have a public head-to-head debate before ballot papers are sent out.”
Hunt said that “scrutiny can be uncomfortable”, but “if we can’t handle it with friends, we won’t deserve to lead against our opponents”.
Tory grassroots will gather on Saturday as reports of the row feature across the front pages.
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve said the issue of character is relevant in the Conservative leadership race as party members choose between Johnson and Hunt.
Grieve told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think the issue of any candidate’s character, standing for the leadership of a party, and aiming to be a prime minister is going to be relevant.
“And has to be relevant because they are going to be in a position of responsibility where they have to make very important decisions.
“I think one has got to be a bit careful about what aspects of character really matter.
“But, clearly, things like reliability and honesty are very important things.
“And, I think they matter in one’s private and personal life, and also they matter in one’s public life.
“So, people are going to have to weigh that up in respect of either of these two candidates.”
Johnson’s team have declined to comment on the reports, while his supporters remained largely quiet.
But one who did speak up was security minister Ben Wallace, who said in a tweet to a Sun journalist, which has since been deleted: “What a non story ‘couple have row.’ Lefty neighbours give recording to Guardian. Newspaper reaches new low is a better news story.”
In a second reply, responding to a Twitter user questioning his suggestion it was a “non story”, Wallace referred to domestic abuse, saying: “Didn’t say DA was a non story. It is incredibly serious. But the report said ‘row’.”