Tory Leadership Debate: The Oddest Moments From A Soul-Destroying Hour Of Television

Graeme Demianyk

The conversation following the BBC Tory leadership debate was less about who won, and more about how heavily the nation lost.

Before a prime-time audience, five candidates to replace Theresa May faced a grilling from host Emily Maitlis and members of the public, with the clock ticking in the background until the UK exits the European Union on October 31.

But most watching - and many of their interrogators - signalled they knew less about the world, not more, after an hour in the company of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart.

The first raised eyebrow was prompted by ...

... the chairs ...

Not a Westlife reunion but a parade of the best minds in the Conservative Party, apparently.

Which drew attention to Rory Stewart’s legs ... 

The maverick minister’s uprights drew attention for being a bit ... manspread-y.

And at one stage he almost appeared to self-combust ...

Who can blame him, right?

Wait, what happened to his tie?

Yep, a bit of costume change mid-debate. 

Stewart later told BBC Newsnight: “I thought maybe if I took my tie off we could get back to some sort of reality.

“I was beginning to feel on those strange BBC white bar stools that we were moving off into an alternate reality.

“It was a sort of strange rotating stage as though we’d go spinning off like some asteroid or a planet.”

And just as you thought things couldn’t get more strange ... it did.

There was some confusion over the identity of Tina from Tunbridge Wells.

As the debate marched on remorselessly, the same complaint emerged repeatedly: please, stop talking over each other.

At times the conversation was as melodious as cats fighting in a sack as all concerned lost control.

And along came Boris Johnson.

The ex-foreign secretary and frontrunner has kept a notoriously low-profile during the campaign, but made a striking remark when challenged over his comparison of veiled Muslim women to “letterboxes”.

He said: “When my Muslim great-grandfather came to this country in fear of his life in 1912, he did so because he knew it was a place that was a beacon of hope and of generosity and openness, and a willingness to welcome people from around the world.”

However, he struggled to remember the name of the man who asked him the question. (Yes, it was the mis-identified Tina from Tunbridge Wells.) 

And Johnson appeared to be causing strife elsewhere ... 

 

In the end, it was left to one question via videolink to sum things up for everyone.

 

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