Who won the BBC leadership debate – we mark the five clueless Tories out of 10
The Tory TV leadership debate last night descended into a shambles as the five remaining PM hopefuls squabbled among themselves and offered no answers or real policies.
Boris Johnson finally broke cover after being accused of ducking out of previous talks, but anyone hoping to hear how he would lead Britain was left disappointed.
The former Foreign Secretary, Michael Gove , Rory Stewart , Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid clashed over tax and Brexit , even criticising their own policies, and were taken to task by a 15-year-old girl over their waffle and quibbling.
Host Emily Maitlis struggled to make herself heard as the five tried to shout each other down during the rowdy BBC show.
But when she got a word in edgeways, she did pin down Mr Johnson on whether he would call a snap election like he demanded after Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair in 2007. But he chickened out of giving an answer.
Schoolgirl Erin, 15, from Glasgow – who took part in pupil strikes against Tory schools cuts – quizzed the candidates about climate change. But she told them: “To be honest, none of you have really impressed me in the way that I am looking for.”
The five got heated over Brexit, with none able to give a
cast-iron guarantee they would take the UK out of the EU on October 31. Mr Johnson said only that leaving on that date was “eminently feasible” and the Tory party “must” do it.
During chaotic exchanges, he said: “Otherwise, I’m afraid, we face a catastrophic loss of confidence in politics. We have kicked the can down the road twice and I think the British people are getting thoroughly fed up.”
But in a direct attack on Mr Johnson, Mr Hunt told the story of a sheep farmer he met whose family business would be destroyed by no-deal.
He said: “He would look at you and say, ‘Boris, you’ve got your dream, you’ve made it to Number 10, but you’ve destroyed my dream.’”
But Mr Hunt also admitted as Health Secretary cuts to social care went too far, an admission that Tory policies were damaging.
SECOND ROUND (33 MPs to pass)
- Boris Johnson – 126
- Jeremy Hunt – 46
- Michael Gove – 41
- Rory Stewart – 37
- Sajid Javid – 33
- Dominic Raab – 30 (KNOCKED OUT)
FIRST ROUND (17 MPs to pass)
- Boris Johnson – 114
- Jeremy Hunt – 43
- Michael Gove – 37
- Dominic Raab – 27
- Sajid Javid – 23
- Matt Hancock – 20 (WITHDREW)
- Rory Stewart – 19
- Andrea Leadsom – 11 (KNOCKED OUT)
- Mark Harper – 10 (KNOCKED OUT)
- Esther McVey – 9 (KNOCKED OUT)
Former Vote Leave chairman Mr Gove said he would be prepared to allow “extra time” if a deal was close.
Then he boasted: “Because I started this, I will finish it.” Mr Stewart, who removed his tie as the debate began, said it would not be possible to reach a new deal with the EU by Halloween .
Mr Johnson again shrugged off responsibility for his role as Foreign Secretary in the continued imprisonment of British mum Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran.
Instead he blamed Tehran and arrogantly insisted that his words – claiming she was working as a journalist when arrested for spying – “didn’t make any difference”.
He was challenged over his comparison of veiled Muslim women to “letterboxes”.
Mr Javid bounced his fellow candidates into triggering an independent investigation into claims of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
The Mirror chicken was outside the BBC’s New Broadcasting House in Central London, where the debate took place, with a special message for Mr Johnson over his recent failure to attend previous debates.
How all 5 candidates fared
High point: Played to the grassroots Tories by saying a Brexit delay would deepen the “catastrophic loss of confidence in politics”. He also claimed the October 31 deadline was “eminently feasible.”
Low point: There were so many to choose from. First he suggested he could help out struggling nurses… by cutting the top rate of tax. Then he suggested his ill-judged comments about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British mum imprisoned in Iran, “didn’t make any difference” to the length of her sentence. And finally his half-hearted apology for saying women wearing face veils looked like “letterboxes.”
High point: When he turned to Boris Johnson, warning him that his Brexit plan would the business of a sheep farmer in his constituency. He said the farmer would tell him: “Boris, you’ve got your dream. You’ve gone to Number 10. But you’ve destroyed my dream.”
Low point: When he was forced to deny he agreed with the “racist rants of Katie Hopkins” – but stood by his “150%” support for Donald Trump’s vile attack on Sadiq Khan , saying he had been “a useless London Mayor.”
High point: The Environment Secretary sounded genuinely passionate about environmental issues, promising to rid the seas of plastic waste. And he had the best put-downs for upstart Rory Stewart. When Stewart told him he was looking for the “key to the door” to getting a Brexit deal through Parliament, Gove quipped: “We’ve run into that door three times already, Rory – we’ve got to have a different route out.”
Low point: When he kept ignoring the question and turning his fire on Jeremy Corbyn , including branding him a “discredited Marxist” and telling him to “get in the dustbin of history”.
High point: His strongest moment was berating cabinet colleagues Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove for being open to a further Brexit delay. He told them the next PM needs to “learn from our mistakes” and keep a firm deadline, which would “ concentrate minds” in Europe.
Low point: The Home Secretary looked a little deflated throughout the whole programme and failed to land any more serious blows on his rivals. This could have been a result of coming within one vote of being kicked out of the contest just two hours before the debate began.
High point: Stewart’s highlight was not what he said, but his body language. First he sat on the edge of his seat – making him look like the only grown-up whose feet reach the floor. Then, for some reason, he took his tie off – both giving the impression he was totally relaxed, and making his opponents fear he might use his spy training to strangle them.
Low point: He described Donald Trump was an “extraordinary phenomenon”, and refused to commit to calling him out in public. And he did himself no favours with a huge chunk of the Tory faithful by ruling out a no-deal Brexit entirely.