The first live TV debate featuring the five people who could be the next Prime Minister took place on Friday night – when most normal people are in the pub.
For those of you who preferred pints to politics, here are five of the most talked-about moments from the surprisingly hard-hitting exchange between fellow conservatives.
1. It’s the economy, fool
The battle to replace Boris Johnson has been dishearteningly lacking in ideas – save for one promise meant to appeal to Tory party members who will ultimately decide who gets the keys to No 10 Downing Street: tax cuts.
Only Rishi Sunak has defected – mainly because it would undermine his reputation as chancellor. As such, Sunak defended his Treasury record when he attacked Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss over their promised cuts – and warned it would push inflation further. “Inflation is the enemy that makes everyone poorer,” he added.
Sunak accused her of being irresponsible and told Truss, “We have to be honest. Borrowing from inflation is not a plan, it is a fairy tale.”
Truss replied, “I think raising taxes is wrong.”
The former chancellor then turned on Mordaunt after saying her economic platform was not based on “taxes and spending” but on “growth and competition”.
He said the promises she made to cut VAT on fuel and raise income tax thresholds would cost £15billion.
But Sunak didn’t get it quite his way. Claiming to make a principled decision to increase National Insurance to protect the NHS, Tom Tugendhat revealed Sunak told him he did it “because the boss wants it”.
2. Culture fighters
In a likely harbinger of the next general election, when “culture clash” issues take center stage, Mordaunt clashed with Truss and Kemi Badenoch when they questioned their record on trans issues.
Truss and Badenoch accused Mordaunt of supporting self-identification when she was in charge of equality issues – something she staunchly denied.
The international trade secretary said while she held a consultation on the gender recognition law, she had never been in favor of self-identification.
“I can’t imagine why people don’t understand what I’m saying and have been regurgitating this topic for weeks and weeks,” she said.
“I’m a woman, I’m a biological woman in every cell of my body,” she said, adding that a man who has changed is “not the same as me.”
However, Badenoch, the former equality secretary, said she found it difficult to accept her rival’s portrayal.
“When I took over as Minister for Equality in 2020, self-identification was pushed. I don’t understand how this would have changed if someone else hadn’t done it. My understanding was that the previous minister who had the role wanted a self-id (Mordaunt),” she said.
Mordaunt replied, “That is not right. It will all be on record.”
But Truss, who was responsible for equality alongside her role as secretary of state, said there was a plan to push self-identification forward.
“I believe in women’s rights. I also believe that transgender people should be treated with respect, so I changed the outcome so we could make the program simpler and friendlier, but not move forward with self-identification,” she said.
3. Yelling at Dumbledore
Speaking of fairy tales, others dabbled in the fantasy worlds as well, with Tugendhat apparently borrowed from Albus Dumbledore.
The word “Dumbledore” was soon trending on Twitter, with former military officer quoting JK Rowling’s character from her beloved Harry Potter series after being asked by a viewer, “Why should the public trust you?”
He told the audience: “What I’ve challenged and demonstrated over the past few years is that I’m someone who fights and I’m ready to challenge both my friends and my enemies.
“It’s easy to stand up to your enemies – it’s sometimes harder to stand up to your friends. We all know that.”
4. Oh no, BoJo!
Snap polls suggested Tugendhat was the “winner” – possibly reflecting his outsider status (he wasn’t a minister) and the prospect of a fresh break from Johnson.
One moment may have been crucial. The five Tory leadership candidates were asked to answer yes/no on whether Johnson was honest.
Badenoch said, “Sometimes.”
Mordaunt said: “There were some really serious issues and I think he paid a price for that.”
Sunak said: “I tried to agree with him for as long as I could and finally came to the conclusion that I couldn’t and that’s why I quit… There were a number of reasons why I quit, but Trust and honesty was part of it.”
Truss said “he made it very clear himself that he made mistakes in government” but she took his explanation for inaccurate statements about Partygate “at face value”.
But Tugendhat got applause from the audience when he – alone among the candidates – answered “No”.
5. Climate change? What climate change?
On the day the Met Office issued its first red extreme heat warning, meaning somewhere in the UK there is a 50 per cent chance of temperatures reaching 40C, the dangers of climate change seemed secondary.
Badenoch dismissed International Environment Secretary Lord Goldsmith’s warning that dropping the 2050 net-zero target would be “political suicide”.
She told the Channel 4 Debate: “I think he’s wrong. The promise was made in 2018 for 2050, none of us will be here as politicians in 2050, it’s very easy to set a goal that you’re not responsible and accountable for when the time comes.
“It is important that we do this in a sustainable way. A lot of what we do could harm our country economically.”
Mordaunt said the new prime minister had to be “realistic” about what it would take to hit net-zero targets.
Environmental taxes would “affect families and companies, you have to see that”.
Badenoch and Truss also said that as prime ministers they would scrap some environmental taxes to cope with rising energy bills.
Badenoch said: “We have to tackle climate change, but I think the crisis we are dealing with now comes first and we have to make life easier for people.”
Truss agreed, saying, “Our top priority should be more economic growth.”
https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/tory-leadership-tv-debate-channel-4_uk_62d1bc4de4b092a3f6bc0ca8 5 Stand-Out Moments From First Tory Leadership TV Debate