JEREMY HUNT and Boris Johnson traded barbs over Brexit last night as they held their first one-to-one debate of the race to become the new prime minister and Tory party leader.
The pair both claimed the other risked breaking the public’s trust over Brexit promises during the lively clash in Salford, televised by ITV.
The debate frequently grew heated and presenter Julie Etchingham had to repeatedly plead with both men to stop speaking over each other.
In one exchange, Mr Hunt told his rival: ‘You haven’t answered any of my questions this evening, not one. We have absolutely no idea what a Boris premiership would be like.’
Mr Johnson shot back: ‘I have answered all your questions — this is one of the reasons why these blue on blue debates are so embarrassing.’
On Brexit, Mr Hunt challenged Mr Johnson to say whether he would quit as PM if he failed to ensure the UK left the EU by October 31.
The frontrunner in the race retorted: ‘My opponent is clearly not committed to coming out of the EU on October 31 — I don’t want to hold out to the EU the prospect that they encourage my resignation by refusing to agree a deal.’
Foreign secretary Mr Hunt, who appeared the more combative of the two, also said his rival was ‘peddling optimism’ and making unrealistic promises. Mr Johnson hit back by saying: ‘We need a bit of optimism.’
The pair faced questions from an audience of 200 people from different political backgrounds during the debate, which was broadcast live.
Topics included British ambassador to the US, Sir Kim Darroch — criticised by Donald Trump after his scathing remarks about the president were leaked. Mr Hunt vowed to keep Sir Kim in post if he became PM. But Mr Johnson refused to make the same pledge and shied away from criticising Mr Trump.
Mr Hunt urged Tory party members whose votes will decide the leadership contest to back him, arguing that the majority of the general public want him to win. ‘In poll after poll I am the public’s preferred choice,’ he said.