BBC Our Next Prime Minister

BBC One’s Our Next Prime Minister: viewers react to the TV debate with Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak

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Following a week of uncertainty and political murmurings, last night’s BBC News special attempted to map out exactly what Conservative leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are all about. 

For many people right now, if you were to bring up the current state of UK politics, you would be met with either a shake of the head, a confused expression, a meme or perhaps all of the above.

One thing on our minds right now is who the next prime minister will be. Following Boris Johnson’s resignation announcement earlier this month, Conservative MPs have been voting to elect his successor ahead of the announcement of the winner on 5 September.

Tom Tugendhat, Jeremy Hunt, Nadhim Zahawi, Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt and Suella Braverman were all in the running to be the next PM, but after multiple rounds of voting and an ITV debate show, all have now been eliminated from the ballot. 

“Liz Truss’ proposed tax breaks for stay at home parents isn’t the answer – affordable childcare is”
Liz Truss went head-to-head with Rishi Sunak in Our Next Prime Minister on BBC One.

Now, former chancellor Rishi Sunak and foreign secretary Liz Truss remain as the two hopefuls to be the next leader of the Conservative party and the pair went head-to-head in what was at times a heated TV debate last night (Monday 25 July) on BBC One.

Our Next Prime Minister was supposed to be a chance for viewers to understand what each candidate stood for and is promising as leader. It really only served as a snapshot of the policies, longstanding voting track records and the morals of each candidate, as conversations around climate change were instead monopolised by discussions about fashion and the cost of Truss’s earrings.

While the one-hour special was never going to answer everyone’s burning questions, many viewers were left confused and even more uncertain about the prospect of who our next prime minister should be.

Rishi Sunak delivered the Spring Statement in the House of Commons today
Rishi Sunak is in the running to for Conservative leadership and to be the UK's next prime minister.

The televised special was hosted by BBC newsreader and presenter Sophie Raworth, with analysis from BBC political editor Chris Mason and BBC economics editor Faisal Islam. 

Liz Truss accused Rishi Sunak of “project fear” as the Tory contenders clashed once again over mortgage rates and other economic issues.

Like any debate, there was a fair share of raised voices and interruptions, all of which led some viewers to switch the debate off or lose interest.

One of the key issues that viewers were hoping to get some clarity on was climate change and how a new government would tackle it. But ultimately it was a discussion derailed by other, much less important, remarks.

Truss and Sunak were also asked about Boris Johnson’s leadership, and held slightly differing views when speaking about the prospect of Johnson returning to the cabinet. 

Sunak remarked: “No, I think we need to look forward at this point.” While Truss admitted: “I’m sure he will have a role, I’m sure he will be vocal, but he will not be part of the government.”

Are we any clearer about some of the most important key political and social issues of the UK right now? No. Are their approaches to things like national insurance and taxation realistic or, like Truss said, just a “scaremongering” tactic?

The BBC special left many viewers with more questions than answers, but one thing we’re sure of is that if this was an episode of The Apprentice, things would have gone very differently.

Speaking about the TV debate, Jonathan Munro, interim director of BBC News and current affairs, said: “We’re delighted to be offering BBC audiences the chance to be part of this pivotal moment in politics and hear, first-hand, from the final two candidates as they compete to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister.”

The BBC will also invite the final two candidates to take part in a televised one-on-one interview with Nick Robinson in Our Next Prime Minister: The Interviews

This BBC debate came a week after ITV aired its own version, Britain’s Next Prime Minister: The ITV Debate, on Sunday 17 July. The special episode took place on the eve of a round of voting and saw Sunak, Mordaunt, Truss, Tugendhat and Badenoch debating the issues dominating the campaign. While each candidate had the opportunity to make a closing statement, the hour-long episode hosted by journalist Julie Etchingham was criticised by some viewers for being too short and didn’t allow viewers to get a true idea of what each candidate stood for.

Whether you watched last night’s debate or not, though, be sure to remind yourself of where Truss and Sunak each stand on key issues including abortion, LGBTQ+ rights and tackling male violence against women.

Our Next Prime Minister is available to stream on BBC iPlayer. 

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Images: BBC; Getty

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