Jeremy Hunt taunted Boris Johnson for 'hiding away' today as he demanded the Tory leadership front runner face him in TV debates.
The Foreign Secretary jibed that his rival had to be a 'little bit braver' amid anger at Mr Johnson's 'submarine' strategy of avoiding scrutiny during the campaign.
Mr Hunt taunted Mr Johnson that his hero Winston Churchill would not have shirked taking part in 'big occasions'.
The direct assault on Mr Johnson comes after he destroyed the field in the first round of the Tory leadership contest yesterday - raking in backing from 114 MPs.
The huge total - nearly three times the 43 Mr Hunt managed - means he is virtually guaranteed a spot in the final two, who will go to a ballot of party members.
But Mr Hunt went on the attack today in a bid to cement his status as the main challenger, pointing out that all six other candidates had signed up to TV debates on Sunday and Tuesday. He said Tory members and the country deserved to know who was going to be the next PM.
'We can only have that debate if our frontrunner in this campaign is a little bit braver in terms of getting out into the media, engaging in debates, engaging in the TV debate,' Hunt told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
'If you want to be prime minister of the United Kingdom, you have to get out there and make your case.
'What would Churchill say if somebody who wants to be prime minister of the United Kingdom was hiding away from the media, not taking part in these big occasions.'
Campaign sources said the combative comments showed the 'underdog is getting hungry'.
Boris Johnson is now the only candidate who has not agreed to the Channel 4 debate show, fuelling accusations that he is limiting his media appearances to avoid scrutiny
Jeremy Hunt (pictured left at Parliament yesterday) came a distant second in the Tory ballot
Channel 4 News has proposed a programme on Sunday night featuring all seven remaining candidates.
The BBC is also planning a debate on Tuesday – after the second round of voting by Tory MPs, which will see at least one other candidate eliminated. ITV has proposed a head-to-head debate between the final