UK Politics

Tory leadership race: Candidates face questions on Trump and Brexit

Tory leadership candidates Image copyright AFP/ Getty Images

Tory leadership contenders have urged Donald Trump not to interfere in UK affairs amid a row over his latest criticism of London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The US President re-tweeted a message criticising Mr Khan's record on knife crime referring to "Londonistan".

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the president's attacks on Mr Khan were "unbecoming" of a US leader and "he should stick to domestic politics".

Michael Gove, Dominic Raab and Rory Stewart also stood up for Mr Khan.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he would not have used the same language as Mr Trump although he "agreed 100%" with him about the mayor's failings on serious crime.

The candidates were asked about Mr Trump's comments at a private hustings in Parliament - where they were also quizzed by journalists about their Brexit policy and personal beliefs.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson skipped the event, having also missed Sunday's Channel 4 TV debate.

He remains the clear frontrunner in the race after topping the first ballot with 114 votes.

But Mr Johnson's low visibility in the campaign so far continues to attract criticism from his rivals and their supporters.

Justice Secretary David Gauke, who is supporting Mr Stewart, said the public was "entitled" to expect every candidate to subject themselves to rigorous scrutiny.

"At the moment Boris Johnson is not doing that," he told BBC News.

He also accused Mr Johnson of making a series of pledges to cut tax or spend more - via his newspaper column - without answering the question "where is the money coming from?"

Mr Johnson has agreed to take part in a BBC TV debate after Tuesday's ballot while he was expected to attend a hustings organised by the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers.

What the candidates said about Trump?

Mr Trump re-ignited his long-running feud with Mr Khan, calling for him to quit in the wake of a weekend of violence in the capital, in which three people were killed.

He re-tweeted a message from the media commentator and broadcaster Katie Hopkins, which referred to the deaths in "Stab City" and said "this is Khan's Londonistan".

The candidates hoping to succeed Theresa May were asked about Mr Trump's comments, which have been criticised by No 10 and Labour.

According to reports of the event, Mr Javid - who was not invited to a state banquet in honour of Mr Trump earlier this month - was the most critical of the US President.

According to the reports, Mr Hunt was the only one who sought to differentiate Mr Trump's rhetoric from what he said were his legitimate criticism of Mr Khan's record in office.

Mr Hunt was one of a handful of leading politicians who had private talks with Mr Trump during his state visit earlier this month.

After Tuesday's hustings, Mr Stewart called on all the candidates to "condemn 100%" Ms Hopkins' language and the "sentiment" behind it.

In response, former Tory Party chair Baroness Warsi, the first Muslim women to sit in cabinet, said Mr Hunt had personally re-assured her that he "abhorred" Ms Hopkins' language and found the use of the term Londonistan offensive.

What they said about Brexit

Mr Raab defended his backing for the UK to leave the EU on 31 October with or without a deal - saying the "biggest risk is the paralysing uncertainty" currently afflicting the UK.

Mr Stewart said he believed Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement could be the basis of a "moderate, pragmatic" Brexit despite being rejected by MPs three times.

He said his new approach to explaining and promoting the deal agreed with the EU could "unlock" up to a dozen Tory MPs, after which he would seek Labour backing.

If the parliamentary deadlock could not be broken, he said his plan B was to get 500 or so members of the public to decide how to proceed in a citizens' assembly.

Compare the candidates' policies

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...and a candidate


Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- Wants to leave with a deal, but says he would back a no-deal Brexit with "a heavy heart" if necessary. - Will create a new negotiating team to produce an "alternative exit deal" to Theresa May’s plan, and engage with EU leaders over August. - Will present a provisional no-deal Brexit budget in early September and decide by the end of the month if there is a "realistic chance" of a new deal. - If not, will abandon talks and focus on no deal preparations. - Pledges to cover the cost of tariffs imposed on the exports of the farming and fishing industries in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Boris Johnson

- Vows to leave the EU by the 31 October deadline "come what may", but claims the chance of a no-deal Brexit is a "million to one". - Wants to negotiate a new deal, which will include replacing the Irish backstop with alternative arrangements. - Will not hand over the £39bn divorce settlement with the EU until the UK gets a new deal. - If a new deal is not agreed, will ask the EU for a "standstill period" to negotiate a free trade deal. - Argues a provision under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, known as GATT 24, could be used for the UK to avoid tariffs for the next 10 years, but admits it would need EU sign off. - Promises to support the rural community in a no-deal Brexit scenario with "price support" and "efficiency payments".


Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- Calls for flexibility on immigration, saying skilled workers should be prioritised. - Wants to review policy of stopping migrants with less than £30,000 coming to the UK to work. - Pledges to scrap the target to reduce net migration to below 100,000.

Boris Johnson

- Wants a new Australian-style points-based system, considering factors such as whether an immigrant has a firm job offer and their ability to speak English. - Will get Migration Advisory Committee to examine the plan. - Wants to block the ability for immigrants to claim benefits immediately after the arrive in the UK. - Opposes the net migration target of under 100,000 a year.


Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- As an entrepreneur, he wants to turn Britain into "the next Silicon Valley... a hub of innovation". - Wants to cut corporation tax to 12.5%. - Wants to raise the point at which workers start paying National Insurance to at least £12,000 a year. - Pledges to scrap business rates for 90% of high street shops. - Will increase the tax-free annual investment allowance from £1m to £5m.

Boris Johnson

- Pledges to raise the tax threshold for the higher rate to £80,000 (rather than the current £50,000). - Wants to raise the point at which workers start paying income tax. - Will review “unhealthy food taxes” such as sugar tax on soft drinks.


Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- Wants to increase defence spending by £15bn over the next five years. - Promises to keep free TV licenses for the over-75s. - Wants to build 1.5 million homes and create a “right to own” scheme for young people. - Backs both HS2 and a third runway at Heathrow.

Boris Johnson

- Pledges more money for public sector workers and wants to increase the National Living Wage. - Will “find the money” to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers by 2022. - Promises to maintain spending 0.7% of GDP on Foreign Aid. - Wants to review the HS2 train project. - Pledges full fibre broadband in every home by 2025.

Health and social care

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- Promises more funding for social care. - Wants to introduce an opt out insurance system to fund future care, similar to the way pensions work. - Wants to target manufacturers of unhealthy foods to make them cut the sugar content. - Mental health support to be offered in every school and a crackdown on social media companies that fail to regulate their content.

Boris Johnson

- Rules out a pay-for-access NHS, saying it would remain "free to everybody at the point of use" under his leadership. - Has previously said money spent on the EU could be put into the NHS. - Plans to give public sector workers a "fair" pay rise, according to supporter Health Secretary Matt Hancock. - Says more should be spent on social care, according to a cross-party "national consensus".


Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- Pledges to write off tuition fees for young entrepreneurs who start a new business and employ more than 10 people for five years. - Wants to reduce interest rates on student debt repayments. - Long-term plan to provide more funding for the teaching profession. - Wants to abolish illiteracy.

Boris Johnson

- Wants to raise per-pupil spending in primary and secondary schools, with a minimum of £5,000 for each student in the latter. - Wants to look at lowering the interest rate on student debts.

Mr Hunt said the central question about delivering Brexit was "who" was going to be doing the negotiating.

And what they said about each other

Ahead of the hustings, Mr Hunt urged Mr Johnson to show "Churchillian spirit" and turn up.

Mr Raab started his hustings slot by describing the event as an "essential gauntlet" in an apparent dig at his erstwhile rival.

Mr Javid warned against his rivals turning on each other, saying that the only winners of a "vicious" debate would be Labour.

The home secretary conceded he was not the most confident orator in the field.

"I didn't go to the debating societies at Oxford or other places. But I am trying to communicate in the best way I can."

Mr Gove, who famously fell out with Mr Johnson after the 2016 referendum, said "Boris could be a good prime minister, but I think I could be a better one."

Among the more unusual questions fielded, Mr Stewart - a former solider and diplomat - was asked whether he ever worked for MI6, to which he replied no.

And Mr Hunt was asked whether he believed in God, to which he said yes.