Damian Green criticises format of televised leadership debate: 'I was sort of wincing slightly'

Former Cabinet minister Damian Green made the comments during an interview with Gloria De Piero on GB News' The Real Me

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Former Cabinet minister Damian Green has criticised the format of the first televised debate between Tory leadership candidates.

He told Gloria De Piero on GB News' The Real Me: “I agree that with Sunday's debate, at times I was sort of wincing slightly, thinking not least ‘why did you agree to that format?’

“I mean, particularly the asking individual questions of another candidate, that is going to be quite punchy and it was.

“I’m not sure that was particularly well advised and I assume that's why some of the candidates have decided we're not having another one of these.”

Damian Green
Damian Green

Asked who he would back if his preferred candidate Tom Tugendhat dropped out of the race as expected this evening he said: “I haven't made up my mind yet. I'm sticking with Tom.

“I hope that by the time this is broadcast he is still in and if he isn't, I will talk to the other candidates.

"I think it's the sensible thing to say, because I've been heavily involved in Tom’s campaign since the start, and I think they're good candidates, maybe the best to be Prime Minister but I'm not committing myself either for or against anyone else at this stage."

Mr Tugendhat dropped out of the Conservative Leadership running on Monday evening.

Gloria asked if the pitches of the candidates were in the Tory one nation tradition.

He said: “Some of it is. I think a lot of the invocations of Margaret Thatcher are quite religious really, that you have to mention that you’re in Margaret Thatcher’s tradition.

“Some of them seem slightly historic to me in that I seem to remember that Margaret Thatcher and Geoffrey Howe’s first budget, they cut income tax, but put VAT up and the big tax cuts that came under Nigel Lawson later in her period of power came after a big squeeze on public spending.

“So the idea that Margaret Thatcher simply thought that introducing tax cuts you'll grow the economy is not actually what Margaret Thatcher thought.

“There are a lot of implications that are I think unfair, really not least to Margaret Thatcher but in terms of the move to the right, I think you do have to reinvent what one nation politics is for every new generation.

Tom Tugendhat dropped out of the Tory leadership race on Monday evening
Tom Tugendhat dropped out of the Tory leadership race on Monday evening

“Inevitably, in different decades you have different things to care about, but there are some basic principles that I would want to see come out of this…which are about respect for the rule of law, respect for our institutions, in keeping the economy on a solid track and keeping the Union together.

“All of those seem to be an essential part of the one nation Conservative tradition, and essential not only for the Conservative Party to be successful, it's one of the reasons it's been successful for literally hundreds of years.

“If we leave that, if we chase away, as you say, just doing culture wars or making it look as though that's the most important thing, then I think a lot of people who would be natural conservatives who would normally vote conservative, will think ‘that's a bit odd. I'm not sure about that.’”

Asked about what it was like at the end of Theresa May’s premiership, Mr Green told GB News: “It was a grisly period for all sorts of people and institutions.

“It was obviously mostly busy for Theresa because she conscientiously took the job as party leader and the UK Prime Minister.

Not quite by accident, but I don't think any of us went into that leadership campaign, thinking that at the end of it Teresa would emerge as leader - it appeared to be a shoo in for Boris.

“We all know what happened, so it was unexpected that she got there and then she did an absolute level best to try and make a deal work.

“And it wasn't going to work for a significant chunk of my party and the party you were in at the time.

“…it was a terrible period. The sight of Parliament being completely paralysed month after month was quite frightening for those of us who believe in parliamentary democracy.

“It was a bad period all that and the point has been made, semi flippantly, but there's an element of truth in it, that actually the world and everyone will be happier if Boris became Prime Minister in 2016, and had got Brexit done then so we didn't have those horrible few years where we couldn't and then maybe when the pandemic came, and he wanted somebody who's absolutely caught every detail than Theresa would be in a better place than they were, in a sense a Prime Minister in the wrong order.”