Boris and Hunt clash in TV debate - but who won?

Tory leadership rivals go head to head in bad-tempered broadcast

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt
(Image credit: (Matt Frost/ITV via Getty Images))

Tory leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt clashed on Brexit and the US ambassador row during a televised debate last night.

Hunt repeatedly asked his rival whether he would resign as prime minister if he fails to deliver Brexit by 31 October, while Johnson admired his rival's ability “to change his mind” so often - in reference to the fact Hunt voted Remain.

The BBC described it as a “lively and occasionally bad-tempered TV debate” that was “pointed and personal in nature at times”, while The Sun reports that the rivals “tore chunks out of each other”.

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The Daily Telegraph sketch said there was “no more Mr Nice Guy” as Hunt “attacked” Johnson “with a vengeance,” while The Independent felt that, going in “as the underdog,” Hunt “went on the attack from the start”.

The Guardian says the “bitter blue-on-blue debate” saw Johnson “struggle over the issue of why he is targeting income tax cuts at higher earners,” while Hunt “could not really address” how to stop parliament blocking a no-deal Brexit.

The Times says the debate saw “BoJo the mojo mumbler” against a “wild eyed tele-evangelist” on “a cross between Who Wants To Be Grilled On Air and I’m a Mediocrity . . . Get Me In There”, while the Daily Mail says “it felt like seeing the Head Boy debate the class clown”.

When Johnson repeatedly failed to answer if he would resign if he failed to deliver Brexit by 31 October, Hunt said: “Being prime minister is about telling people what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear.”

However, Johnson said his rival was “not absolutely committed” to the deadline himself, and described him as “defeatist”. He added: “I think it is extraordinary we should be telling the British electorate we are willing to kick the can down the road. I would like to know how many more days my opponent would be willing to delay.”

The pair also clashed over the on-going row over the UK's top diplomat in the US, Sir Kim Darroch.

Johnson refused to condemn Trump for his response to the leaked cables and also declined to confirm whether he would keep the ambassador in his post after Trump said he was no longer prepared to deal with him.

Whether the debate has changed the course of the leadership race is less than clear. The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg says that many Conservative members will have voted before the debate. “Johnson arrived the favourite and leaves in the same position,” she said.

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