Tom Tugendhat says Boris Johnson is not being honest as other leadership rivals are unable to answer

Tom Tugendhat has said Boris Johnson is not an honest man, breaking with other Tory leadership rivals who have been unable to deliver a clear verdict on the prime minister’s integrity.

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee won the first round of applause from the audience during Channel 4’s live debate for his response to the question – asked of each of the five candidates – whether Mr Johnson was being honest.

After long responses from each contestant except Kemi Badenoch, who laughed and said ‘sometimes’, Mr Tugendhat began shaking his head and replied ‘no’ before host Krishnan Guru-Murthy n finished asking him the question.

Mr Tugendhat narrowly survived the second round of voting among Tory MPs on Thursday, having secured just 32 votes, five more than Attorney General Suella Braverman, who was eliminated.

But the former army officer’s campaign insisted he was “in it to win” and looked forward to the three televised leadership debates – in which favorites such as Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and, to a lesser extent, Liz Truss, seemed to have more lose.

Promising Channel 4 viewers a ‘good start’, which is his campaign slogan, and calling for ‘a pause in these Johnson years’, Mr Tugendhat said: ‘I have held a mirror up to many of our actions and asked those in our party, those in our leadership positions, to ask themselves “is this really what the public expects?”

“Are you serving the people of the UK or are you serving your career? Because that’s the real question tonight. This is the real question for all of us.

The debate saw the candidates clash over taxes, with former Chancellor Mr Sunak accusing Ms Truss of touting economic ‘fairy tales’ and trying to portray himself as the only realist among the contenders, ready to take tough decisions such as raising National Insurance to better fund the NHS and social care.

But this central pillar of Mr Sunak’s campaign was in danger of being somewhat undermined, after Mr Tugendhat claimed the former chancellor had told him privately that he was only raising National Insurance ‘because the boss wanted it”.

As he wrestled with whether his boss in Downing Street was being dishonest, Mr Sunak said: ‘I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt for as long as possible and eventually came to the conclusion that I couldn’t, and that’s why I quit.

“There were a number of reasons why I quit, but trust and honesty was one of them.”

Ms Mordaunt – who was sacked by Mr Johnson as Defense Secretary in 2019 for his support of then-leadership rival Jeremy Hunt – said that “there were some really serious issues and that Mr Johnson ‘paid the price’.

Ms Truss, who as foreign secretary was in Indonesia when Mr Johnson’s government implosed and remained silent until he announced his intention to step down, said the prime minister had “made it very clear himself that he had made mistakes in government” and that she had taken his explanation for inaccurate statements about the Partygate scandal “at face value”.

She added: “I supported Boris Johnson, of course I raised issues with him privately, but I supported him in the leadership election. I was in his cabinet and owed him my loyalty.

A snap poll of 1,159 viewers by Opinium found 36 per cent thought Mr Tugendhat performed best in the debate, putting him 11 points ahead of favorite Mr Sunak.

Ms Truss, meanwhile, appeared to have a disastrous exit, as polls broken down by voting intent found just 10 per cent of those who voted Conservative in 2019 thought she had the best results – a figure that is even lower in the general population.

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Edward L. Robinett