Our next prime minister: What we learned from the BBC Conservative leadership debate
- The candidates to become Britain's next prime minister took part in a televised BBC debate on Tuesday evening.
- There were no clear winners as all sides engaged in a fractious debate over Brexit and the future of the country.
- The five candidates now move to a third round of voting on Wednesday.
- Visit Business Insider's home page for more stories.
LONDON - The remaining five candidates in the Conservative Party leadership contest went head-to-head on Tuesday evening in a televised debate for the first time.
It was a fractious, confusing, and often noisy affair with host Emily Maitlis sometimes struggling to make herself heard.
At one point the BBC host was forced to repeatedly ask the frontrunner Boris Johnson "can you hear me?" as he ignored her interventions.
However, amidst the cacaphony there were a few revealing moments. Here's what we learned.
None of the candidates have a clear plan on Brexit
"We seem to have strayed some way from the question," complained Maitlis at one point, as the contenders once again dragged the debate back to the question of Britain leaving the EU.
However, despite all the contenders keen to talk about the issue, none had a convincing answer on the biggest question currently facing the Conservative party and the country.
The frontrunner, Boris Johnson, used his opening pitch to state that the UK "must" leave the EU at the end of the six month Brexit extension on October 31. However, he repeatedly resisted giving an absolute commitment to do so, saying only that it was "eminently feasible,"either with or without a deal.
Asked by his rival Rory Stewart how the UK could leave without a deal given that parliament had repeatedly voted against a prospect, Johnson notably ignored the question.
Stewart had his own difficulties however, struggling to explain why, given that Theresa May's deal has already been rejected three times by parliament, he believes he could possibly pass it on the fourth time of asking.
The Conservative party lacks a wider agenda
Things weren't much clearer on the question of tax with the candidates divided over whether the party should commit to easing the burden on taxpayers. Even Johnson, who had launched his campaign with a commitment to cut tax on high earners, appeared to row back on the commitment, saying only that it was an "ambition" which he was pleased to have started a "debate on" the subject.
The panelists seemed similarly unprepared on the question of climate change, as raised by a member of the public named Erin, with Johnson merely stating that he would have a "greener" agenda for the country. Asked how he squared this with his recently abandoned opposition to the expansion of Heathrow Airport, Johnson struggled to reconcile the two, saying only that he still had "grave concerns" about the project. However, he refusied to repeat his previous commitment to "lie down in front of the bulldozers" to stop it.
When asked which of the candidates had impressed her most on the issue, Erin replied that "to be honest, none of them did."
Sajid Javid is one to watch
However, when the question of Islamophobia in the Conservative party was raised by a member of the public, Javid found his voice and managed to do what nobody else has managed before, which was to force all of the contenders for the leadership to commit to an independent inquiry into the issue. This was a significant win for Javid and follows a similar intervention earlier this week on Trump and Sadiq Khan. It marks him out as a politician willing to speak out on issues of principle, even if it may harm his chances of winning. Whatever happens in this contest, he seems likely to play a significant role in the next Conservative administration.
Nothing can stop Johnson now
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