Five candidates for Prime Minister faced off in the first debate of a Tory leadership contest launched when Theresa May stepped down on June 7.
One candidate was notably absent.
Leadership favourite and ex-foreign secretary Boris Johnson refused Channel 4’s invitation to join the debate.
The broadcaster put an empty podium in the centre of the debate floor to show his absence.
Journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy opened the debate highlighting that all the candidates for Tory leadership are men. He referenced Johnson’s empty podium and said the candidate was “welcome to take his place at any point in the program”.
Twenty-five minutes into the debate, candidate and foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt was the first to critique Johnson’s absence.
“Where is Boris? If his team won’t allow him out with five fairly friendly colleagues, how is he going to deal with 27 European countries?”
The main debate questions were posed by members of a live studio audience.
Most of the debate focused on the Conservative plan for Brexit and though all candidates support leaving the European Union, there were differing opinions on a no-deal Brexit and how to proceed on the issue.
International development secretary Rory Stewart said no deal was not an option.
“I think a no deal Brexit is a complete nonsense,” Stewart said.
Many candidates expressed vehement opinions about suspending parliament, turning on former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab who said it would not be “illegal” to do…