Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Boris Johnson and Rory Stewart were grilled by members of the public in a live televised debate on BBC One, hosted by Emily Maitlis.
Each of the candidates had made it through to the next stage of the Conservative Party leadership race earlier in the evening – and face a further vote on Wednesday.
Here are five talking points from the programme.
Sajid Javid wins Islamophobia commitment
When Gloucester Imam Abdullah Patel asked the MPs about the Islamophobic rhetoric faced by members of his community, and whether they agreed words had consequences, each sought to answer his question (Johnson taking the opportunity to talk about his Muslim great-grandfather who came to the UK) as best as they could.
When it was Mr Javid’s turn, he decided to take it one step further – asking all the candidates to agree, there and then, to commit to an independent investigation into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
“Do you all agree guys?” he asked, turning to his rivals in turn. “They all agree? Excellent. That’s great we all agree on that.”
Speaking to Abdullah, he said there had been a rise in anti-Muslim hatred in the UK, adding: “In all parts of society, wherever that is – including in political parties – it must absolutely be rooted out.”
Mr Gove agreed that “hatred towards people on the basis of their background or faith is repugnant” and added: “We should also say that some of the things Jeremy Corbyn has said about British Jewish citizens are disgusting”, saying he should be “called out for it”.
He added: “Yes, if there are Islamophobes in the Conservative Party – and there are – we should root them out.”
Some questioners were unimpressed
The format for the debate saw members of the public chosen to ask questions to the five candidates.
But rather than being in the studio themselves, they were beamed in from their respective areas, and shown on a big screen – meaning we got to see their expressions writ large, including a rather spectacular eye-roll from Carmella in Southampton who wanted reassurances about her husband keeping his job in the eventuality of a no-deal Brexit.
And 15-year-old Erin, from Glasgow, was equally frustrated by their answers about the environment – she wanted them to promise it would be their top priority as prime minister.
“To be honest, none of you have impressed me in the way I’m looking for,” she said. “Climate change isn’t an issue of tomorrow, it’s an issue of today and we need to create drastic, critical action and I don’t think any of you are willing to offer that.”
It seems the audience watching at home weren’t that enamoured by what they heard either: especially when the candidates talked over each other, and even had to be given a stern “shush” at one stage.
A surprising admission?
Some were surprised by Mr Hunt’s admission that some of his cuts to social care “did go too far”.
He added that some local authorities do now need more money – and that there should be better provision for mental health services.
Our political correspondent Chris Mason said he had not heard Mr Hunt say that before.
Other commentators described it as an “extraordinary admission”.
Sheep farmers have their say
It seems many of the remaining prime ministerial hopefuls have been out speaking to the public – sheep farmers in particular.
Perhaps wanting to demonstrate they have the common touch, both Jeremy Hunt and Rory Stewart said they’d been spending time with sheep farmers.
Mr Hunt said, directing his comments at Mr Johnson, that if the only way to leave was without a deal then he would do that, adding: “But what would you say to a sheep farmer that I met in Shropshire recently whose business would be destroyed by 40% tariffs?”
He said this sheep farmer would be left saying: “You’ve got your dream, you got to Number 10, but you’ve destroyed mine.”
And it wasn’t the last reference to sheep farmers.
Speaking after Mr Johnson, on the issue of the Irish border, Mr Stewart said to his rival: “I’m sure like me you’ve been in Enniskillen, sitting with a sheep farmer.
“They’re sending their sheep across the border to the Republic, 80% of the sheep are processed – as I’m sure you know – at abattoirs in the Republic.”
It was unclear whether Mr Johnson, or indeed Mr Javid or Mr Gove, have indeed met any sheep farmers recently.
After an hour, the general consensus was that there was no clear winner and that the debate ended as a tie.
And talking of ties, Mr Stewart decided to lose his early on – which did not go unnoticed by the audience at home on social media.
But rather than wanting to present a more relaxed attitude, apparently he took it off simply because it was very hot in the studio. He also commented later he had been uncomfortable on his “bar stool”.
In fact, those chairs also got more than a few mentions – with some saying the set-up made them look like a boyband.
Which one of them will be the biggest hit among Tory Party members will be known next month.
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