Five Tory leadership contenders clash in second TV debate amid bad-tempered race to be next PM | The Sun

TORY leadership hopefuls are squaring off against each other in a brutal sparring match tonight.

The gloves have come off as Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Kemi Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat trade blows in the live debate on ITV.



Within moments of the programme beginning, Mr Sunak and Ms Truss were locked in a row.

Sparks flew as Ms Truss accused the former Chancellor of being too comfortable cranking up taxes – biting: "You raised taxes to the highest level in 70 years.

"The fact is, raising taxes will choke off economic growth and prevent us getting the revenue we need to pay off debt."

But Mr Sunak snapped back: "Something for nothing economics isn't Conservative, it is socialism."

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He added: "I'd love to stand here and say, 'I'll cut this tax and that tax and it'll all be ok', but you know what? It won't."

He later told Ms Mordaunt her plans for borrowing would go farther than Jeremy Corbyn's – blasting: "It's not just wrong, it's dangerous."

Ms Badenoch said the Government must be honest that there are "no easy options" – adding: "When I was working in the Treasury, it was always a choice between difficult option A, terrible option B or mad option C.

"We need to be honest with the public about how difficult things are. The Government can't solve everything and we need to do better at it in terms of the way that we fix things."

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Ms Truss and Mr Sunak then clashed again as they chose to ask each other one question.

Mr Sunak asked: "In your past, you were both a Lib Dem and a Remainer. Which one do you regret most?"

Liz then bit back: "Do you still think we should be doing more business with China?"

Mr Tugendhat and Ms Badenoch were next to wage battle as she accused him of "criticising what we've been doing" while not a minister himself.

"Talking is easy," she said.

Ms Mordaunt was also speared again over her record on trans rights.

Ms Badenoch accused her rival of shifting from previously backing gender self-identification – before Ms Mordaunt said the claims are "unedifying" and part of "toxic politics".

And all five candidates bashed Boris Johnson in their desperate scramble for votes.

Host Julie Etchingham asked the contenders to raise their hands if they'd be happy to to have the current PM serving in their Cabinet.

Not one did – despite repeatedly backing Mr Johnson while he was top dog.

It comes after Friday's debate descended quickly into a series of vicious blue-on-blue attacks.

Candidates savaged each other on tax, spending and honesty in politics.

The third ballot will take place tomorrow, and one more will be eliminated.

On Wednesday, just two will remain standing.

Both will tour the country trying to win the votes of 100,000 or so ordinary party members on Friday.

Brits will then decide who should be the new PM, with the vote revealed on September 5.

Ms Mordaunt's bid for the top job was electrified earlier this week when a poll of Tory members put her on course to beat everyone in the final run-off.

She is now the bookies' favourite to enter Downing St despite not being in the Cabinet and entering the race as an outside bet.

But a powerful campaign to stop her is under way, with former Brexit guru Lord Frost mounting a fierce attack on the Trade Minister.

He told TalkTV he had "grave reservations" about whether Ms Mordaunt is fit to lead the country.

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And she could yet be beaten by Mr Sunak, who has repeatedly emerged in first place in the leadership ballots.

He says he's "incredibly grateful" to be the frontrunner.

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