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Tory leadership: Hunt seeks change to TV debate schedule

Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson

Image caption

Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson are the final two MPs vying to be Tory party leader

Jeremy Hunt has said plans for a televised Conservative leadership debate three days after voting begins is making a “mockery” of the contest.

Mr Hunt said Boris Johnson had challenged him to a debate on ITV, scheduled to take place on 9 July.

The foreign secretary accepted his invitation but now says a TV debate should be held before voting starts.

The pair will make their first leadership pitch directly to party members in Birmingham later.

Tory MPs whittled an initial list of 10 candidates down to those two through several rounds of voting.

In the fifth and final round on Thursday, Boris Johnson came out on top with 160 out of the 313 votes cast.

Mr Hunt received 77 and Michael Gove was knocked out with 75.

Conservative party members will now decide who will become party leader – and prime minister – via postal voting during July.

The new leader is likely to be announced on the week beginning 22 July.

ITV’s programme will be the third televised debate of the campaign and the first in which the two finalists will go head-to-head.

Mr Hunt said: “It makes an absolute mockery of this leadership contest for the Conservative Party if people will actually have started voting before they have had a chance to see the two protagonists on TV.”

“Boris challenged me to the ITV debate until I realised that that debate is so far ahead that people will already have started voting before it happens.”

Mr Hunt did not make it clear whether he would be asking ITV to move its debate forward or seeking a broadcaster to stage one before 6 July.

But he added: “I think we should be doing debates early, we should be doing them often.”

Compare the candidates’ policies and careers

Select a topic and a candidate to find out more

CAREER

Jeremy Hunt

Foreign Secretary


– The foreign secretary campaigned to remain in the EU during the 2016 referendum, but has since been reborn as a Brexiteer.
– He even suggested, to widespread criticism, that the EU was like the Soviet Union. However, he has said his party would be committing “political suicide” if it tried to push through a no-deal Brexit.
– An MP for South West Surrey since 2005, Mr Hunt was made culture secretary under the coalition government in 2010 and oversaw the 2012 London Olympics before becoming health secretary.
– In 2018, he became the longest-serving health minister, and arguably one of the most controversial, since the NHS was created, completing six years in the role. During his tenure, he clashed with unions over contracts for junior doctors, who took part in a series of walkouts in 2015.

Boris Johnson

Backbencher


Later on Saturday, the two contenders will attend the first of 16 leadership campaign events, known as hustings.

There they will face questions about Brexit and their wider policy plans from Conservative party members.

Mr Johnson featured on most of Saturday’s newspaper front pages following reports by the Guardian that police were called to his London home after neighbours reported “slamming and banging”.

The newspaper said his partner, Carrie Symonds, was heard telling Mr Johnson to “get off me” and “get out of my flat”.

The Metropolitan Police said “there was no cause for police action” and a spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “No comment”.

Mr Hunt endured a difficult day on the campaign trail on Friday when an inquiry heard he had failed to keep his promise to a man with terminal cancer during his time as health secretary.

The inquiry is looking at why 4,800 people with haemophilia were infected with hepatitis C or HIV in the 1970s and 1980s.

A spokesman for Mr Hunt said he had “pushed for this landmark inquiry”.

Tory leadership: Hunt seeks change to TV debate schedule}

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