Ready, Steady Go. The first Conservative leadership debate kicks off this evening at 7.30pm on Channel 4 – the first ahead of the next round of parliamentary voting on Monday.
The debate will be hosted by Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Channel 4 News’ main presenter, and the candidates will face questions from a studio audience.
While all will be trying to impress, the candidates will also be looking to avoid landing themselves in any sticky situations.
Here are the questions that each of these Tory hopefuls will be hoping don’t crop up.
Rishi Sunak: If you are a low-tax candidate, how do you explain why you proposed another “green levy” on petrol?
It is claimed that last year – before the energy crisis unfolded – Sunak privately lobbied for a “green levy” on petrol and diesel which would have seen the public pay hundreds more pounds for petrol per year.
The proposal, which was rejected by the PM after objections from his cabinet ministers, was intended to help the country reach its “net zero” emissions target by 2050.
Penny Mordaunt: Did you enjoy working with Lord Frost? Was he always visible?
In an interview with TalkTV on Thursday, Lord Frost criticised Mordaunt, saying he had “grave reservations” about her potential leadership and that she wasn’t always “visible” in her job.
Frost, who is one of Liz Truss’ key supporters, also said: “To be honest, I’m quite surprised [Mordaunt] is where she is in this race.”
Despite supporting Truss, who is a Brexit convert, Frost added that Mordaunt “wouldn’t always deliver tough messages to the EU when that was necessary”
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Liz Truss: Why did you risk nuclear war to become prime minister?
As Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss has been at the forefront of Britain’s response to the war in Ukraine. But even some hawks believe that her heavy-handed approach to Russia has only served to further inflame tensions, and was undertaken to fuel her own political ambition.
In February, Truss told Sky News that if Putin was not stopped in Ukraine, there could be “conflict between Russia and NATO“.
In another instance, Truss said: “We will keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine.”
Tom Tugendhat: Why did you change your mind on Brexit, and why didn’t you spot the advantages of Brexit at the time?
“The full advantages of Brexit are yet to be unleashed,” Tom Tugendhat wrote in The Telegraph last week, as he set out his leadership bid. The problem is, Tugendhat voted to remain in the EU.
For Brexit-voting MPs and party members, this begs the question: does Tugendhat really believe in Brexit, and did he just change tack to endear himself to the Brexit wing of the party?
Having made a one-eighty on his previous convictions, Tugendhat now has to prove he can deliver the Brexit that Tory voters want, even if he doesn’t believe in it himself.
Kemi Badenoch: Does it annoy you when people say you don’t have the experience to be PM? What is your response?
Badenoch, who is only 42, having only been an MP since 2017, has less direct political experience than the other candidates. However, she has been a Tory activist for 20 years sat on the London Assembly and held several junior ministerial positions. Along with Tugendhat, she is the only candidate who has not held a cabinet level position.
For Badenoch, who claims to be a “fresh face,” her inexperience is not a hindrance. According to the MP for Saffron Walden, people don’t want “somebody who has been in Cabinet a very long time.”
There is another question that would be fun to ask all five rivals: would they continue with Boris Johnson‘s plan for a £250 million Royal Yacht as a symbol of Global Britain?
It’ll be up to the studio audience to make the candidates’ nightmares come true…