Johnson and Hunt prepare for first head-to-head debate


Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt will debate head-to-head for the first time in the battle to be prime minister, as protesters gather outside to demonstrate against the choice being made by 0.25% of the population who are members of the Conservative party.

Johnson, the frontrunner in the Tory leadership race, will face Hunt in front of an audience of 200 ITV viewers in Manchester, answering questions via the moderator, Julie Etchingham, and challenging each other during the 90-minute programme.

The audience will be made up of members of the public, even though the decision on who will be the next prime minister will be made by 160,000 members of the Tory party who are overwhelmingly older, male and white.

How much have the candidates raised?

Since November last year Boris Johnson has declared more than £1m in money via the register of MPs’ interests. About £415,000 is from donations, with more than £330,000 given since May. About £385,000 came in fees for speeches, including £123,000 for a single address to a media conference in Delhi. Johnson also receives £23,000 a month for his Telegraph column, and makes money from book royalties.

Hunt is lagging considerably in donations, having pulled in just under £186,000 over the same nine-month period, all donated since May. As possibly the richest cabinet minister due to his education publishing business, Hunt has not needed to seek extra income – and as a minister he would not currently be permitted to do this.

Is there a spending limit?

Yes there is: under Tory party rules, a maximum of £135,000 per candidate during the leadership election period. Some of the donations, particularly to Johnson, were given and likely spent before this began, and so would not be subject to this limit.

Who are some of the notable donors – and what do they believe?

A relatively small and incredibly select group of people have been donating, almost entirely from the worlds of finance, banking and property – who would arguably have a vested interest in lower tax rates for the high-paid (a Johnson proposal), slashing the rate of corporation tax (as Hunt seeks to do), and a government with less interest in regulating businesses. Examples include:

First Corporate Shipping Ltd: Donating to both Johnson and Hunt, the firm is co-owned by Terence Mordaunt, a strong Brexiter who is a board member of a climate change denial group the Global Warming Policy Forum. 

Robin Birley: A businessman and property developer, the long-time Brexit supporter previously donated to Ukip under Nigel Farage, and recently attended an event run by the controversial youth group Turning Point UK, which was addressed by Farage. He has now given Johnson £20,000.

Graham Robeson: As chief executive of Rowland Capital, Robeson, who gave Johnson £10,000, is the director of companies ultimately based in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands.

Atul and Tarspal ‘Pinky’ Pathak: Donors of £10,000 to Hunt, the couple started in 2003 with a single franchise of McDonald’s, and now run nearly 40 around London and nearby via their company, APPT Corporation, which has a turnover of more than £70m.

Johan Christofferson: The hedge fund manager, who has given Johnson £36,000 in two donations, is a keen supporter of fox hunting. 

Ken Costa: An investment banker who donated £10,000 to Hunt, he was a UK special envoy to the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Salman was heavily implicated in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year.

Peter Walker and Amy Walker

Hunt’s campaign has accused Johnson of dodging televised debates until most Tory members have submitted their postal ballots, and the foreign secretary’s team regard it as their last major chance to change the minds of those who have not yet decided.

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The contenders have already appeared at hustings events where they were interviewed separately in front of Conservative members and took part in a TV debate when five candidates were still in the race.

However, this will be the first time they have faced each other one-on-one, 10 days after ballot papers were sent to Tory members.

Outside the event, campaigners for a people’s vote on Brexit plan to protest against the small number of voters making the choice on behalf of the country.

Pointing to the 0.25% of the country who are Conservative members, they will wear T-shirts saying the 99.75% should have a say on who governs Britain.

They plan to hold a huge mocked-up ballot paper asking: “Who do you want to decide Britain’s Brexit future? Just 160,000 Conservative party members? Or everyone – with a people’s vote.”

Johnson has spent Tuesday so far at events with members and visiting the north of England.

He has been urged by William Hague, the former Tory leader, to use the debate to rule out suspending parliament in order to push through a no-deal Brexit.

At a hustings organised by the Daily Telegraph on Monday, Johnson issued a fresh warning to Tory MPs seeking to block no deal.

“If we don’t get Brexit over the line then we face a haemorrhage of support,” he said, according to the Telegraph. “The risk they run is we will hand, by sheer incompetence, this government to a hardline Marxist.

“I make that point to Dominic Grieve and others who didn’t want to leave the EU. We’ve been very, very negative. We need to be much more robust and confident.”

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