Davis forced to defend debate as BBC host condemns Tories ‘ripping each other to shreds’

David Davis forced to defend Tory leadership debate

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As the battle to succeed Boris Johnson has unfolded, candidates in the leadership bid have been criticised for fiery clashes during television debates. The two remaining contenders, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss again engaged in a heated debate on Monday night that was aired to homes across the country by the BBC. Broadcaster Sally Nugent suggested the candidates had been shown “ripping each other to shreds” on national television, prompting concerns over increasing divisions within the Conservative party. Tory MP David Davis dismissed the criticism as he praised the Conservative leadership debate for offering a crucial opportunity to examine candidate policy and character.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Davis said: “That’s the point of these debates – it’s not just about policy, it’s about establishing character and ability.”

Ms Nugent interjected to add: “We also saw two senior members of the Conservative party ripping each other to shreds. 

“How damaging is that for the Tories?”

Mr Davis, who stood against David Cameron in the 2005 Conservative party leadership election, used his own experience in the contest to defend the televised debate.

He replied: “I took part in five TV debates with David Cameron when he won the leadership and there were plenty of times when we were pretty incisive about each other’s policies.”

Mr Davis continued: “I think I was probably fiercer than Rishi last night at some points and nobody complained then.

“Nobody said ‘oh this shouldn’t be happening’ – it was the first of these great TV debates and nobody complained then.

“The truth is it’s the future of the country that’s at stake here – that’s what matters.

“If to get there we have to have a debate about policy to make sure which policy works and also test the character of the people who want to be Prime Minister, at the end of the day, that’s a good thing.”

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Mr Davis asserted that the televised debates were an important aspect of the leadership contest in allowing the public to understand the candidates’ individual policy stances.

He suggested the discussion between Mr Sunak and Ms Truss also provided valuable insight towards their personal character, which would help voters make their decision.

He added: “I don’t think last night would have done the Conservative party any harm at all.

“I think one of your people said it was more interesting than they thought because it was about real issues, real policies, things that matter to real people. That’s what this is about.”

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A Tory leadership debate set to air on Sky News last week was cancelled after both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss pulled out.

Debates in the earlier stages of the competition had come under fire as the contenders squabbled amongst themselves, with critics suggesting the arguments unmasked divisions within the party.

With the contest now narrowed to two candidates, both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss have resumed their parts in televised debates with another head-to-head debate scheduled for Sky News next Thursday.

The finalists in the race are set to continue a series of debates and media engagements as they campaign over the summer months before the successful candidate is announced on the September 5.

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