How to watch the Conservative Party leadership debates on TV

When are the live TV debates? Who are the contenders and when will voting take place? Find out here in our indispensable guide…

Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt

Prime Minister Theresa May announced her resignation in an emotional speech on 24th May 2019, drawing her turbulent three-year leadership to a close.

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May’s departure means that on or just after 22nd July, the UK will have a new Prime Minister tasked with leading the country and negotiating Brexit.

Here’s everything you need to know about the leadership race – from which MPs are in the running to how to watch them battle it out on live TV… 

When are the live Conservative Party leadership TV debates?

The first Tory leadership debate aired live on Sunday 16th June at 6:30pm on Channel 4.

It was hosted by Krishnan Guru-Murthy and took place after the first round of voting on Thursday 13th June. Boris Johnson decided not to attend the debate, claiming it would be “cacophonous”.

The second debate aired live on Tuesday 18th June at 8pm on BBC1. Emily Maitlis hosted the special programme, which was broadcast just two hours after the second ballot. Boris Johnson took part in the debate.

Sky News was set to host a live head-to-head debate between the final two candidates, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, in front of a studio audience made up of Conservative voters. The programme, presented by Kay Burley, was scheduled to air on Tuesday 25th June but it has now been postponed after Johnson declined the invitation to attend.

Hunt has agreed to do the Sky debate and has called Johnson a “coward” for declining, saying his opponent has to answer questions about his plans in office. Burley has also tweeted to call out the backbencher for not agreeing to take part.

A Sky spokesman said: “We stand ready to host a debate tomorrow evening if both candidates make themselves available.

“Without both candidates, tomorrow’s debate will not take place.

“But we will reissue our invitation for Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson to debate live on Sky News next Monday, July 1.”

However, ITV will host a debate between the two contenders aiming to become Prime Minister on 9th July, 8pm.

Julie Etchingham will present the hour-long show in front of a studio audience in the North West of England.

ITV promise “viewers at home have the chance to see Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson engaging directly in debate on the big issues like Brexit, the economy and their potential leadership styles, with questions put to them by ITV viewers”

andrew neil

The BBC has also announced both Hunt and Johnson have agreed to be interviewed by Andrew Neil on BBC1 at 7pm on Friday 12th July. Instead of a head-to-head debate, The Andrew Neil Interviews: Jeremy Hunt & Boris Johnson will feature two consecutive half-hour interviews with the candidates.

Who are the Conservative Party leadership contenders? 

At the time of writing on Monday 24th June the two names still in the race are…

  • Jeremy Hunt – Foreign Secretary

  • Boris Johnson – Backbencher

When is the voting taking place for the next Conservative Party leader and how does it work? 

The Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament (Getty)

All 313 Conservative MPs have voted for their preferred candidate in a series of secret ballots that have narrowed down the contenders so that only two are left.

The first ballot took place on Thursday 13th June, and further rounds of voting were scheduled for 18th, 19th and 20th of June.

Under a new set of rules, candidates needed to win the votes of at least 17 MPs in the first ballot and 33 MPs in the second to stay in the process.

If all the candidates exceeded these thresholds, the contender with the least votes was eliminated. This elimination system continued in subsequent rounds until only two people remained.

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When will the new Prime Minister be elected?

Members will receive their postal ballots between 6-8 July, with the final deadline falling the week ending Sunday 21 July. Following a month-long contest, the Tory officials will then declare a new prime minister on Monday 22nd July.