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The second Tory leadership debate – as it happened

18 July 2022

3:40 AM

18 July 2022

3:40 AM

Good evening. The second Conservative leadership debate between Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Penny Mordaunt, Kemi Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat has just finished. Below is the full live analysis (please reload the page to get updates):

10.00 p.m. Coffee House Shots

9.00 p.m. Snap poll: the verdict

Katy Balls writes… The snap poll verdict is in – and this time it is Rishi Sunak out on top, with Tom Tugendhat in second place. This will help Sunak’s team with the second stage of their campaign which is to convince MPs he is best placed to win an election. As for the others, the poll is good news for Liz Truss. She is only in fourth place but is an improvement on Friday and crucially her current rival for the votes on the right, Kemi Badenoch, is behind her in fifth place.

8.12 p.m. We are witnessing a collective Tory breakdown

Fraser Nelson writes… ‘If you’re still watching this debate, well done,’ said Mordaunt, bizarrely, in her closing statement. ‘I wish tonight had been less about us and more about you.’ A comment was evidently scripted before she had any idea how the evening was going to pan out: as delivered, it sounded like a swipe at Etchingham’s chairing of the debate.

Tom Tugendhat quite rightly said the whole evening’s discussion – tax, defence etc – was about the country. ‘We need to restore confidence in our government and in ourselves,’ he said. Huh? In ourselves? It’s the Tories who are having a collective breakdown: the nation’s self-confidence is doing fine. Sunak had the same gameshow-host polish that he rather eerily exhibited all the way through; you almost expected him to give an Anne Robinson-style wink to the camera at the end. But overall, he did pretty well – and, I think, he knew it.

Liz Truss promised to lead a ‘government of all the talents’, which is horribly resonant of Gordon Brown’s disastrous attempt to do the same thing when he took over in 2007. She looked down at her notes throughout her one-minute closing statement, like some newbie MP at PMQs, which is odd for such a seasoned performer. ‘I might not be the slickest presenter on this stage,’ she said earlier, a nod to her underwhelming delivery in this format. Badenoch didn’t look once at her notes in her closing statement. ‘I’m the candidate for the future,’ she said – returning to her maiden speech theme about having chosen Britain for values she discerned and admired from Nigeria. Nice stuff but I very much doubt her fellow MPs will let her be judged by Tory members in the final two candidates – unless tonight’s debate was a game-changer. We’ll know a lot more when MPs vote tomorrow night.

8.06 p.m. Tax dominated 

Kate Andrews writes… Tonight’s bust-ups were similar to the ones during Friday’s debate in mainly focusing on tax cuts. The difference was that this time candidates came prepared for the fight. Liz Truss went straight for Rishi Sunak in the first few minutes pointing out that the tax burden reached its highest level ‘in 70 years’ during his time as chancellor. Sunak responded by criticising Truss’s plan for deficit-financed tax cuts, saying ‘this something-for-nothing economics isn’t conservatism, it’s socialism’. Truss hit back that the economy is ‘heading for a recession’ under Sunak. The former chancellor decided to bring Penny Mordaunt into it, suggesting her comments this morning about borrowing for day-to-day spending wasn’t even something that Jeremy Corbyn would consider.

Punchy stuff, which drew an even clearer divide between Sunak’s fiscal responsibility line and the Truss-Mordaunt cut-and-spend position. But this divide has already been well-established. And the debate has yet to move on.

8.03 p.m. Who came out on top? 

Katy Balls writes… After a bruising hour of blue-on-blue attacks, it’s a mixed bag for the candidates. Liz Truss was under pressure to deliver tonight after a lacklustre performance on Friday – she succeeded in being more energetic when it came to her interactions with other candidates. Sunak faced the greatest criticism but will likely still be content with his performance – batting off many of the attacks and returning to his message of fiscal responsibility. Mordaunt once again struggled to cut through in the way you would expect a frontrunner to do.

7.58 p.m. Knives out – but no early election

James Forsyth writes… There was a huge amount of blue on blue in that debate. But one thing they did all agree on was no early election. Indeed, given the polls and the fact that inflation will start to come down from next year, it would be bizarre if any new PM was tempted by an early election.

7.54 p.m. The Tories’ net zero mess

Fraser Nelson writes… Sunak was the only candidate to answer ‘yes’ to a pledge not to back down on the net zero commitment in any way. The rush into this unaffordable agenda (UK Net Zero would do virtually nothing to move the dial on climate change) is a big part of why the Tories are in this mess. Badenoch was the most direct in hinting that she’d tear it up. ‘If there are things that will make life difficult for ordinary people, I will change them… if we bankrupt ourselves we will be leaving a terrible future for our children and I will not allow that.’

7.52 p.m. Who’s scared of who? 

Katy Balls writes… The part of the ITV debate where contenders were able to ask a rival of their choice a question was very revealing. The bulk of candidates chose to put the pressure on Rishi Sunak – confirming that he is the frontrunner. Tom Tugendhat quizzed Penny Mordaunt – his team hopes to take some of her supporters. Finally, Sunak asked Truss about her former Lib Dem and Remain credentials. It suggests that Truss is the candidate he is most concerned about facing in the final two.

7.50 p.m. Who can beat Starmer?

Isabel Hardman writes… Penny Mordaunt is confident about her popularity, claiming – to the disgust of her rivals – that the polling shows she’s the only person who can beat Keir Starmer. But what she can’t do is answer the question levelled at her by Tom Tugendhat, which was when will she fill out the detail of her policies so that voters know what she’s for. Presumably, this is because some of her policies are of the blue sky thinking sort rather than the sort that Starmer will be able to do any kind of real engagement with.

7.49 p.m. Get Rishi!


Kate Andrews writes… Tonight’s debate is wrapping up with everyone taking directing a question at Sunak: Kemi Badenoch asks questions about Covid fraud, Liz Truss asks about his feelings on China, Penny Mordaunt calls for him to up defence spending. It puts him under pressure – it also gives him plenty of talking (and pitching) time. It mirrors what happened on Friday night: targeting Sunak also makes him look like the default leader among the candidates.

7.46 p.m. This contest is fraying trust at the top of the Tories

Isabel Hardman writes… Well, the Tory definition of being nice to each other and positive campaigning is quite different to everyone else’s. Rishi Sunak, clearly annoyed by the attacks from others, turns on Liz Truss and asks her whether she regrets being a Remainer or a Lib Dem. Truss hits back by talking about her upbringing and contrasting it with the school Sunak went to (Winchester). This contest is pretty aggressive. It hasn’t reached the stage where the whole party feels like it needs to go to relationship counselling after. But it is going to be hard for a number of key figures to trust one another again.

Fraser Nelson writes… Truss’s answer doesn’t stack up. She became a Conservative she said, because she saw what was happening to kids in her school. But at school she became a Lib Dem – and went on to speak at their national conference! So I’m not quite sure her timeline is right. And she’s not right to sneer at Sunak because he went to Winchester: only one person from that school has ever become PM before, poor compared to Eton’s 20. If Sunak makes it, he will smash a glass ceiling that has kept Old Wykehamists down since 1806. Dare to dream.

7.44 p.m. Further infighting over Covid loans

Katy Balls writes… The blue on blue continues. Kemi Badenoch has come out swinging for Sunak – asking him why he didn’t listen to her concerns along with others that the Covid schemes could be open to fraud. Since the Treasury has lost money on misuse of the schemes, it has led to numerous attacks from the Labour frontbench. The fact that fellow Tories are now criticising Sunak for this, too, on primetime television will be music to Labour strategists’ ears.

7.42 p.m. Rishi tackles non-dom claims head-on

Kate Andrews writes… Rishi Sunak tackles questions of his wife’s former non-dom tax status head-on, making clear he has always paid tax in the UK but also taking the opportunity to talk about his wife and family-in-law’s wealth. He explains it as a Conservative success story: his father-in-law building a multinational company from nothing. It’s an interesting tact: the full embrace of an issue that caused him a lot of political pain earlier this year. It came across as very sincere. Will it put the topic to bed?

Fraser Nelson writes… Sunak said he has always paid normal tax but his wife is ‘from another country so she’s treated differently’. But is that really so? How many Indian passport holders are there in Britain, and how many of them are non-doms? As I understand it, his wife actively chose non-dom status – and if so, Sunak should not talk as if it came naturally with her Indian citizenship. So I think this topic isn’t quite put to bed. 

7.33 p.m. The problem with Tugendhat’s pitch

Katy Balls writes… Tom Tugendhat is once again differentiating himself from the other candidates by saying that he is the only untainted candidate in the final five. He’s never served in government and says the country and party deserve a change. But here’s the problem: if Tugendhat’s pitch is so different to the past few years, where’s his mandate? Did voters in 2019 give Tugendhat the green light to reverse government decisions and change course? One of the dangers of backing a fresher face is it could increase pressure for an early election.

7.32 p.m. Badenoch and Tugendhat clash

James Forsyth writes… Badenoch and Tugendhat again clash over his criticism of those who have served in government. Badenoch says others have served on the front line. Tugendhat shoots back that he served on the front line in Iraq and Afghanistan. ‘You haven’t served in government,’ she snapped back at him. ‘Talking is easy.’

7.30 p.m. Format lends itself to drama

Steerpike writes… This debate is much livelier than Friday’s. No more banal non-sequiturs from underinformed audience members: just ITV’s host in a studio with five men and women who know where each other’s bodies are buried. It’s led to a more punchy, lively discussion in the first 20 minutes than the full hour-and-a-half on Friday. Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have already clashed about the National Insurance rises. Let’s hope more is to come.

7.27 p.m. Badenoch boosted

Kate Andrews writes… Kemi Badenoch is having a strong start tonight. Last Friday’s debate performance – and the very positive response to it – has clearly given Badenoch a confidence boost, and she’s speaking her mind without a hint of hesitation. It’s bringing out one of the best things that Badenoch brings to this race: an element of surprise.

Her supportive comments about unions and ‘showing them respect’ was an unexpected but welcome twist to a string of comments from other candidates refusing to say how they’d work to combat strike threats. She also managed to stay out of the tax-cut bust-up, while still getting her point across, talking about her time in the Treasury and being presented with ‘difficult Option A, terrible Option B, and Mad option C’. In other words, no easy options: and closer to the Rishi Sunak argument, she’s willing to talk about those trade-offs.

7.25 p.m. Has Truss just lost the support of Johnson loyalists?

Katy Balls writes… Is there a continuity Boris candidate? Liz Truss has been winning support from Johnson loyalists as the candidate who can stop Rishi Sunak, who Team Johnson brand as disloyal. However, there are limits. When all five candidates were asked who would give Johnson a job in their cabinet, not a single candidate raised their hand. What will Truss backers and Johnson uber loyalists Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries make of that?

7.22 p.m. Boris abandoned

James Forsyth writes… Not a single candidate says that they would have Boris Johnson in their cabinet. But I suspect that Boris Johnson will not be angling for a job in any of their cabinets, rather he’ll be enjoying the freedoms of the backbenches and the opportunities of the post-office circuit.

7.20 p.m. Truss clarifies BoE comments

Kate Andrews writes… Quite remarkable that tonight’s debate narrowed in on Bank of England independence. Liz Truss clarified that she would keep the Bank independent – comments in Friday’s debate raised questions that she might consider renationalisation. I’m hooked, but I can’t imagine this is the topic that’s determining how MPs and tory grassroots vote.

7.18 p.m. The candidates are trashing the Tories’ own record

Isabel Hardman writes… There is a lot of trashing of the Conservatives’ record in government underway this evening. Liz Truss’s decision to seek revenge on Rishi Sunak for Friday night’s pasting means she’s ended up criticising his handling of the economy over the past few years – in the government of which she was a member. Now, she did let it be known at the time that she was unhappy with some of the policies, but breaking cover as she is now shows that she is on the defensive after the last TV debate.

7.15 p.m. Sartorial improvements 

Steerpike writes… The level of oratory may not be high, but at least sartorial standards have improved. After the sorry spectacle of Friday, where four of the candidates looked washed out against the dark backdrop, the Tory leadership contenders have upgraded their wardrobes over the weekend. Liz Truss now looks resplendent in red while Tom Tugendhat has ditched his regimental tie for standard Tory blue. Penny Mordaunt has plumped for a royal blue blouse while Kemi Badenoch is striking in a pale dress. Rishi Sunak meanwhile retained his expensive suit and tie-less look. David Cameron anyone?

7.10 p.m. Promises of growth

Kate Andrews writes… Candidates are going around saying what they’d do to relieve the cost-of-living crunch. For the most part, all leadership contenders are doubling down on previous pledges rather than announcing new ones. It was notable that Truss, Tugendhat and Sunak put more emphasis on economic growth as a way out of the current crisis — no obvious supply-side reforms were mentioned though, apart from Penny Mordaunt, who pays brief lip-service to tax simplification.

7.08 p.m. More blue on blue

Katy Balls writes… We have our first bout of blue on blue. After Rishi Sunak called out Liz Truss in Friday’s debate – accusing her of pedalling fairytales on the economy – she has tried to give him a taste of his own medicine. Truss responded to Sunak’s claim he has a plan for economic growth by saying his tax rises have been anything but – and worked against this. Mordaunt has joined the Sunak pile-on too – agreeing with Truss that tax cuts now are possible.

7.03 p.m. The debate set-up

James Forsyth writes… Julie Etchingham, ITV’s interviewer, is trying to encourage the candidates to debate each other, rather than just make statements. She says that at the end of the debates, candidates will get to ask one other candidate, one question.

6.50 p.m. Mordaunt slips

Katy Balls writes… The second televised leadership debate begins shortly. So, who is under the greatest pressure? It’s been a tricky weekend for both Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss. Mordaunt had been touted as the one to beat mid-week but has since seen that momentum stall following a number of blue-on-blue attacks and her poor performance in Friday’s Channel 4 debate. The ConHome membership poll has gone from listing her as the grassroots’ favourite to suggesting that Rishi Sunak would now beat her in a run-off.

As for Liz Truss, the membership polling is looking up for her. The same polling said she would beat both Mordaunt and Sunak if she reached the final two. Yet she is still under pressure. With the general public, Truss polled worst out of all the candidates in Friday’s debate. Meanwhile Kemi Badenoch – her main rival on the right of the party – is fast gaining admirers. It means a lacklustre performance against an energetic Badenoch could make it harder for her to win over wavering MPs on the right of the party ahead of tomorrow’s knock out round of voting. Read Katy’s full analysis of the ConHome poll here.

6.20 p.m. Revealed: Penny Mordaunt’s hidden equalities agenda

Steerpike writes… Mr S has obtained a recording of a speech Mordaunt gave to LGBT+ Tory activists in June 2018, in which she seem to suggest her strategy is to obscure her true beliefs about trans rights and gender self-ID. She told the crowd:

I’ve got a growing list of legislation, some of which I can’t even be seen to be helping with. So we have to be really smart about how we do that. And it is difficult but we have to keep the pace up, in fact we have got to pick up the pace on these issues because that is what the country wants. The country is changing, society is changing. And we need to be ahead of that.

Read the full story here.

6.05 p.m. Rishi Sunak’s Brexit attack ad

Gus Carter writes… Rishi Sunak has released a video that seeks to bolster his position as a true Brexiteer. The clip includes a dig at fellow candidate Liz Truss, pointing out that she campaigned for Remain during the 2016 referendum. Given other candidates have complained that the debate is getting nasty, it’s interesting to see the frontrunner continue to question his opponents’ records. Watch the clip below:

📺 Ahead of tonight’s #ITVDebate at 7pm.

A public service announcement on Rishi and Brexit👇 https://t.co/3cXn1rFhca pic.twitter.com/nmaq0lradt

— Ready For Rishi (@RishiSunak) July 17, 2022

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