Boris Johnson has dodged questions about a “staged” photograph with his girlfriend as he took questions during a live radio phone-in.
An image of Mr Johnson with Carrie Symonds – apparently taken in the Sussex countryside on Sunday – showed a display of unity after neighbours called police when they had a row on Friday.
But LBC’s Nick Ferrari questioned the legitimacy of the photo, and suggested that his haircut in the photograph does not match his current appearance.
Mr Johnson suggested he did not know when he last had a haircut – and did not answer whether he knew when the picture was taken or that it would be released.
He laughed when Mr Ferrari asked if it was him “or Ed Sheeran”.
The Conservative leadership candidate said: “I am aware of all sorts of pictures of me out on the internet. And it is entirely up to newspapers to decide what they want to print.”
Mr Johnson has come under scrutiny for the picture and accused of trying to have it “both ways”, with an apparently private moment photographed and released despite his insistence not to share information about his private life.
“The longer we spend on things extraneous to what I want to do… the bigger the waste of time,” he said.
Elsewhere in the phone-in, Mr Johnson took questions from members of the public on his record in politics and his plans for power.
He said a commitment to 20,000 additional police officers was correct, but wouldn’t commit to a “glib timetable” on when that number would be achieved or make any spending commitments to fund it.
On Brexit, Mr Johnson said the Conservatives would “haemorrhage voters” if the UK did not leave the EU.
He said politics had “totally changed” since 29 March, the original Brexit date, and he warned “we are staring down the barrel of defeat”.
Mr Johnson said: “People are looking at this thing and thinking ‘parliament is just not going to do this’.
“But, actually, I think they are.”
Calling the withdrawal agreement “basically dead”, Mr Johnson said: “You need to take the serviceable bits and there’s some good stuff about the 3.2 million EU citizens who are loved and valued and who contribute to the life of this country.
“They deserve to have their rights protected and we should pass that in UK law, get that done, immediately.”
On the island of Ireland, he said there would be no hard border, and there would be no checks imposed by the UK.
Mr Johnson said there were “other techniques” to check against smuggling and country of origin, and said that the EU would buy it because the UK would be ready to leave without a deal on 31 October.
He added it is time for the UK to stop “being so down” about getting Brexit done.
Information about Mr Johnson’s policies have been limited so far. But earlier on Tuesday, one of his pledges – to increase the threshold for the higher rate of income tax from £50,000 to £80,000 – was criticised by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS).
The think tank such a policy would cost an estimated £9bn and mainly benefit the rich – including MPs, who have a basic salary of about £79,000.
On LBC, Mr Johnson said he did not recognise the IFS figures. He also cited his mayoral record – and claimed he put more money into the pockets of the capital’s poorest through the London Living Wage.
He described claims he was in regular contact with Steve Bannon as a “crazy alt-right conspiracy”, saying the American campaigner had tried to meet with him last year but the meeting was “not possible”.