Boris Johnson, the favorite for the Conservative Party leadership, was nowhere to be seen as his five rivals Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart took to the stage for the Channel 4 leadership debate. Host Krishnan Guru-Murthy said Johnson declined an invitation but was ‘welcome’ to join at any point.
Some of the sharpest exchanges came over whether Parliament should be shut down in order to push through a no-deal Brexit by 31 October – something four of the five candidates argued against.
Rory Stewart, who has mounted a credible challenge to Johnson by advocating a more moderate Brexit position, scored well with the audience.
But Britain’s next prime minister will be decided by the Conservative members of parliament (MPs).
The UK had been due to leave the EU on 29 March, but EU leaders agreed to delay the date to October after MPs repeatedly rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Boris Johnson’s bid to become the new leader of the Conservative party and Britain’s next prime minister received another major boost on Sunday night when he won the backing of Matt Hancock, a former leadership contender and prominent Europhile.
The endorsement for the clear frontrunner to replace Theresa May came despite Mr Johnson’s refusal to attend the first Tory leadership candidates’ TV debate on Sunday night, which featured the five other contenders.
Tory MPs vote for the second time on Tuesday to whittle down the number of candidates to two by Thursday, after which the party’s 160,000 members will select the winner through a postal ballot.