Boris Johnson’s supporters last night attacked Channel 4 over its debate format and said it proved he was right not to take part.
Junior Brexit minister James Cleverly said the show was set up to get leadership candidates to ‘knock chunks out of each other’.
Presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy courted controversy by introducing each candidate by the school and university they went to. It meant that Rory Stewart’s schooling at Eton was highlighted, together with Jeremy Hunt’s Charterhouse background, while Sajid Javid was introduced as having been to a comprehensive school near Bristol.
Mr Guru-Murthy also made the point that all the candidates were men. The broadcaster claimed it had chosen its audience on the basis they were Tory members or people who would consider voting Conservative. However, it was the most Left-leaning candidate – Mr Stewart – who consistently attracted the most applause.
Presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy courted controversy by introducing each candidate by the school and university they went to
Mr Cleverly said: ‘This Channel 4 debate is geared up to encourage Conservative leadership candidates to knock chunks out of each other. That’s not how this campaign should be conducted. It’s probably good for Channel 4’s viewing figures but I’m astonished that so many candidates are playing along.’
Supporters of Mr Johnson took to Twitter criticising the broadcaster’s format and praising the candidate’s decision to swerve the debate ahead of a BBC debate scheduled on Tuesday.
One twitter user called Channel 4 ‘anti-brexit’ and called BBC’s Newsnight ‘pro-remain’
Another compared the debate to the Jeremy Kyle Show or The Chase, asking how it would lead to respect for the next prime minister
Boris Johnson told the BBC’s World at One that he would be willing to take part in a ‘sensible, grown up debate’ on the BBC but that he didn’t think too much ‘blue-on-blue’ action was necessary – referring to the Channel 4 debate format.
Mr Johnson added: ‘My own observation is that in the past, when you’ve had loads of candidates it can be slightly cacophonous.
‘And I think the public have had quite a lot of blue-on-blue action frankly over the last three years. We don’t necessarily need a lot more of that.’
Despite his absence at the Channel 4 debate a podium stood empty in the centre of the candidates where Mr Johnson would have stood.
Two delivery firms were seen delivering takeaways to Mr Johnson’s house in South London this weekend while Mr Johnson swerved the debate
User @gemcch called the broadcast ’embarrassing and unprofessional’ and said Boris did the right thing not appearing
Joshua Eardley said the show made UK politics look cheap and said Boris would make a ‘great PM’
Chris Whitehouse said the ‘Sunday roast’ debate made Channel 4 appear to be the ‘biggest loser’
Cathy Hellyer called Channel 4 ‘shameless and unprofessional’ and said she didn’t blame Mr Johnson for not appearing
‘Channel 4, a bunch of lefties trying to show Tories in a bad light’ writes Shirwan Didar
Meanwhile during the TV debate Michael Gove denied he was a hypocrite after he admitted taking cocaine. The Environment Secretary said he had learned from his mistakes and his drug-taking had taught him how important it was to help people who had led ‘difficult lives’.
In a section about each candidate’s weaknesses, Mr Guru-Murthy suggested that Mr Gove’s hypocrisy was his failing. He replied: ‘No. I made a mistake. We all do – we are all frail and faulty – and if you do make a mistake and have fallen short on your standards, you don’t lower the standards, you reflect on your mistake.
‘If we fail or falter, I think one of the things we can all do is learn from them. I learned from my mistake. One of the reasons I am in public life is in order to help people who have had difficult lives.’ Mr Hunt backed Mr Gove, saying: ‘Every single one of us has done something 25 years ago we wouldn’t want our mum and dad to find out about.
Mr Gove earlier declared himself the ‘Comeback Kid’ in the Tory leadership contest
‘Whatever the horrors of drugs, when we face a constitutional crisis of the magnitude of Brexit we should not be trivialising the debate by talking about what we got up to 25 years ago.’
Mr Gove earlier declared himself the ‘Comeback Kid’ in the Tory leadership contest. He sought to relaunch his campaign one week after it was rocked by his admission that he used cocaine 20 years ago. In a Sunday Times interview, he claimed to be the ‘Chumbawamba candidate’ – a reference to the band’s 1997 hit Tubthumping which included the line ‘I get knocked down. But I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.’
|Candidate||Time spent speaking|
|10 minutes and 2 seconds
11 minutes and 23 seconds
12 minutes and 9 seconds
12 minutes and 13 seconds
14 minutes and 30 seconds
Mr Gove revealed he had secured the backing of Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley, and Scottish Secretary David Mundell. Despite being written off by his rivals after the cocaine confession, Mr Gove finished third in the first round of voting with 37 MPs backing him. He said: ‘Someone said the other day, ‘Michael, you are the Comeback Kid. You are the Chumbawamba candidate. You get knocked down, but you get up again.’ That’s been true throughout my career.’
He added: ‘At the beginning of last week people said I was going backwards. We put on votes in the course of the week – I’m well-placed now.’
An analysis by The Daily Telegraph found that Dominic Rabb had the least time allotted to him during tonight’s debate.
Dominic Rabb spent ten minutes and two seconds answering the questions put to him while Sajid Javid had 11 minutes 23 seconds, Rory Stewart had 12 minutes 9 seconds shortly followed by Jeremy Hunt who spoke for 12 minutes 13 seconds.
Michael Gove topped the charts speaking for 14 minutes and 30 seconds during the programme.
A spokesman for Channel denied that the debate audience had been biased to any one candidate after it was claimed the 120 studio viewers were not split 47 per cent pro-Brexit and anti-brexit, with 6 per cent undecided, as had been proposed.
Channel 4 told The Telegraph:’Survation recruited an audience of floating voters who were open to voting conservative and who fairly rejected the Brexit issue.
‘This was a live debate and each candidate participated fully.
‘Fairness and due impartiality in political debates are not dictated by an arithmetic calculation of airtime. Each candidate had a fair opportunity to participate.’
May accused of boxing in Boris with £27bn plan to boost schools
Theresa May has been accused of trying to tie Boris Johnson’s hands as she seeks to push through a £27billion funding pledge for education.
She is understood to be planning to present her three-year plan to Cabinet as soon as tomorrow as part of a bid to shore up her legacy.
Government sources said she ‘is still Prime Minister’ and ‘education is very high on her list of priorities’. However, the move is being resisted by the Treasury amid claims it would be ‘immoral’ to limit the ability of Mrs May’s successor to deliver on their own pledges.
One Cabinet minister said the Prime Minister was attempting to ‘stitch up’ a deal with the Treasury and then ‘bounce’ ministers into signing it off ahead of a public announcement.
Theresa May is understood to be planning to present her three-year plan to Cabinet as soon as tomorrow as part of a bid to shore up her legacy
‘It really has to be a decision for the next person,’ said a Whitehall figure. ‘It is just not moral for the PM to make this commitment.’ Mrs May’s proposed boost for education amounts to about £7billion a year on resources, including staff, and £2billion per year on capital expenditure, such as books and building repairs.
It would not require legislation and is the biggest of the ‘legacy projects’ she is trying to secure before leaving No10.
It follows a separate funding increase for the NHS last year.