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Live coverage: Candidates clash over Brexit in Tory leadership debate

Dominic Raab was eliminated from the leadership contest after failing to get enough votes from MPs.

The Tory candidates in the TV debate (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)
The Tory candidates in the TV debate (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)

Boris Johnson has confirmed his status as the favourite to be the next prime minister with a commanding victory in the second round of voting in the Tory leadership race.

Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab was eliminated from the race while Home Secretary Sajid Javid survived by a single vote.

The remaining candidates took part in a live BBC TV debate, with Brexit, the Irish backstop and the economy among the subjects discussed.

With Mr Johnson appearing certain of a place in the final two, the contest has become a battle for the right to a spot alongside him in the ballot of 160,000 Tory members who will choose the next party leader and prime minister.

Here’s the latest:


Michael Gove seemed pleased with his performance:

(Yui Mok/PA)


Boris Johnson did not leave the BBC through the main entrance, instead departing through a back door.

He did not answer when asked how he thought the debate went.


Home Secretary Sajid Javid urged all the candidates to commit to an external investigation into Islamophobia in the Tory party.

“It’s great that we all agree on that,” he said.

A spokesman for his campaign said: “Sajid is deeply concerned about rising division in our society.

“We are a great country, the world’s most successful multi-racial democracy, and there are people from all backgrounds and races in the most senior roles right across society.

“But there is a rise in hate crime across the country and we cannot close our eyes to it.

“Though he does not have any reason to believe there is anything endemic in the Tory Party that breeds Islamophobia, no organisation is immune from this cancer. So he’s pleased to open up the party to scrutiny; we must have the courage that the Labour Party has so sorely lacked.”



The leadership rivals rounded on Boris Johnson over his plan to cut taxes for people earning more than £50,000.

On the BBC debate, Mr Johnson said he would lift the National Insurance threshold for the low-paid but there should be a “debate” about the higher income tax rate.

“It does seem to be very odd that in the Conservative Party people should seriously question whether it is right to try to lift nurses and heads of maths departments and police inspectors out of the top rate of tax,” he said.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “What people accused the Conservatives of is they say we are the party of the rich.

“We must never fall into the trap of doing tax cuts for the rich and confirming that prejudice.”

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “I think Boris is making one mistake on tax, which is that of the money we have he is concentrating on cutting taxes for folk who earn what MPs earn and what millionaires wrong.

“I think that is wrong. I went into politics to help the very poorest in our society and I think that is the way in which we show we are actually a party that can take on Jeremy Corbyn.”


When asked whether he would allow the third runway at Heathrow airport to be built, having once claimed he would lie down in front of bulldozers to prevent it, Boris Johnson said: “I continue to have grave reservations about the Heathrow runway three.

“Not just from the point of view of air quality but also noise pollution as well and I will continue to use all the instruments … to reduce CO2.

“As you know, court cases are now proceeding and as prime minister I will be following those very closely indeed.”


The debate in full flow:

(Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)


Jeremy Hunt denied that he endorsed Donald Trump’s retweeting of the “racist rants of Katie Hopkins” about “Londonistan”.

“What I said was I agreed with his sentiment that Sadiq Khan had been a useless London Mayor when it comes to tackling knife crime,” he told the BBC debate.

“But I totally disagree with his words and I totally disagree with the racist rants of Katie Hopkins.”

Mr Hunt said he was married to an immigrant and had three half-Chinese children.

“When they go to school they look different to the other kids. You know the best thing about this country is it doesn’t matter at all.”


In response to a question on Islamophobia, Mr Johnson said: “When my Muslim great-grandfather came to this country in fear of his life in 1912, he did so because he knew it was a place that was a beacon of hope and of generosity and openness, and a willingness to welcome people from around the world.”

Asked about his handling of the Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe case during his time in the Foreign Office, Mr Johnson denied that his erroneous suggestion she had been involved in training journalists had contributed to an increased sentence in an Iranian jail.

“In that case, it didn’t, I think, make any difference,” he said.

“If you point the finger at the UK, all you are doing is exculpating those who are truly responsible, which is the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.”



Boris Johnson was challenged over his comparison of veiled Muslim women to “letterboxes”.

On the BBC debate, he said: “In so far as my words have given offence over the last 20 or 30 years when I have been a journalist and people have taken those words out of my articles and escalated them, of course I am sorry for the offence they have caused.”


Among the MPs from other parties criticising the debate on social media was Labour’s Jess Phillips.

She tweeted: “This format is proving without doubt that the British People are better than those who represent them. All of them are more thoughtful, more expert, more considered and better behaved.”



Responding to Mr Stewart, Michael Gove said: “We’ve run into that door three times already, Rory – we’ve got to have a different route out.

“You cannot simply re-present the same cold porridge for a fourth time and ask people to say that’s what they want.

“We need to have a different approach.”



Mr Stewart said he would rule out a no-deal Brexit entirely.

He said: “In the end, we’re in a room with a door and the door is called Parliament, and I am the only person here trying to find the key to the door.

“Everybody else is staring at the wall shouting ‘believe in Britain’.”



On the BBC debate, Rory Stewart said it would not be possible to negotiate a new deal by October 31, leaving the existing Withdrawal Agreement as the only way out of the EU.

“I would say to all these people on the platform who voted for the deal: take the shock of the European election, let’s get on with it, let’s vote it through, let’s get it done.”


The candidates ready to face viewers’ questions (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)


Ahead of the debate, Rory Stewart said he was pleased with his campaign’s momentum:


Home Secretary Sajid Javid said it was “fundamental” to get out of the EU by October 31 and honour the result of the referendum.

On the BBC debate, he said: “We have failed to act on those instructions and it is fundamental that it has to be by October 31.”

He told Mr Gove and Mr Hunt: “We have got to learn from our mistakes. One of the mistakes we have made so far is by having this flexible deadline.

“If you don’t have a deadline, you don’t concentrate minds, and that also includes the minds of our European friends.”


Both Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove said a delay beyond October 31 may be necessary if a deal was within reach.

Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt said he would walk away without a deal if there was no prospect of agreement by October 31.

But “if we were nearly there, then I would take a bit longer”.

Mr Gove said he would be prepared to allow “extra time” if a deal was close.

He said he was “upset” and “angry” that Brexit had not yet happened.

“Because I started this, I will finish it,” the prominent Brexit-backer said.




Boris Johnson said “we must come out” of the European Union on October 31 as he appeared on the BBC’s debate.

“Otherwise, I’m afraid, we face a catastrophic loss of confidence in politics,” he warned.

“We have already kicked the can down the road twice and I think the British people are getting thoroughly fed up.”

Mr Johnson added: “Unless we get out on October 31, I think that we will all start to pay a really serious price.”


The rest of the candidates have all arrived at the BBC:

(Yui Mok/PA)
(Yui Mok/PA)
(Yui Mok//PA)


Sajid Javid has arrived at the BBC and, like Mr Hunt and Mr Gove, he did not walk past the main media pen outside.


With Boris Johnson favourite to become next prime minister, we take a look at his more memorable moments:



Jeremy Hunt arrives for the TV debate (Yui Mok/PA)


(PA Graphics)


Rory Stewart spoke to a number of news organisations on his way in and said it is “terrific” that Boris Johnson is taking part in the debate.

He added: “The real question I’ll be asking him again and again is how is he going to do it? How is he going to deliver Brexit?”

Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt have also arrived at the BBC but did not walk past the main media pen.


Boris Johnson did not stop to talk to waiting press as he arrived at the BBC.

(Yui Mok/PA)


Rory Stewart has arrived at the BBC ahead of the debate.

Asked if he was nervous about facing Mr Johnson, he said: “No. I feel very energised by everybody.”



Dominic Raab supporter Suella Braverman, MP for Fareham, tweeted: “Disappointed that @DominicRaab did not make it though to the next round of this contest. I am proud to have worked with him in Government and to have supported his positive leadership campaign. He is a truly formidable asset to our @Conservatives Party and to our country.”

Rehman Chishti added: “It was a pleasure to work with @DominicRaab as part of his campaign team advising on foreign affairs & security.He ran a brilliant campaign on delivering Brexit & building a fairer society.”



Five candidates left now…



Conservative leadership candidate Sajid Javid paid tribute to Dominic Raab’s “professionalism, drive & fresh ideas” after the former Brexit secretary was knocked out of the Tory leadership race.

Mr Javid tweeted: “He has a major role to play with any new PM helping Britain’s young people get a fair shot.

“Thank you for your support! Looking forward to tonight’s debate with my colleagues and @maitlis. I can lead a Conservative Party which connects with new audiences and creates opportunities for all. #TeamSaj.”



(PA Graphics)



Brexiteer Conservative Andrea Jenkyns tweeted: “@DominicRaab fought an honest campaign, true to his convictions and fighting to deliver Brexit. But his talent deserves to be back in the cabinet. We are rooting for you.”


ERG vice-chairman Mark Francois said: “It was great to see Boris going up again – that’s obviously encouraging.

“In a sense it’s a shame to lose Dominic Raab because he is an extremely capable politician. I hope whoever wins – and I hope it’s Boris – will find a good place for Dom in his Cabinet.”


Here are the results from the second round of voting in the Tory leadership contest:

– Michael Gove: 41

– Jeremy Hunt: 46

– Sajid Javid: 33

– Boris Johnson: 126

– Dominic Raab: 30

– Rory Stewart: 37




Boris Johnson has topped the ballot in the second round of voting in the Tory leadership contest, with Dominic Raab eliminated from the race to be the next prime minister.



(PA Graphics)


Earlier, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was feeling “very confident” as he left the voting room.

He told waiting journalists he was the 242nd MP to cast their ballot.


Environment Secretary Michael Gove leaves Downing Street after a cabinet meeting earlier on Tuesday (Stefan Rousseau/PA)


(PA Graphics)


The London studio where the BBC TV debate will take place (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)


Earlier, Prime Minister Theresa May, asked who she voted for in the Tory leadership ballot, told reporters: “As I said last week, none of your business.”


(PA Graphics)


Candidates need 33 votes in today’s second ballot to remain in the Tory leadership race.

Rory Stewart picked up just 19 votes in the first round but his campaign has gathered momentum and a source close to him told the Press Association: “I think we’re there, but it’s tight.”

Sajid Javid got 23 votes in the first round, and a campaign source acknowledged it was “close” and they were “making no predictions” about what would happen.

Both Cabinet ministers have publicly said they are confident of securing the numbers needed to remain in the race.

An ally of former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, who got 27 votes, said they were “quietly confident” he would pass the threshold.



From Belfast Telegraph