Conservative leadership hustings: Devon voters quiz Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt
PUBLISHED: 14:56 28 June 2019 | UPDATED: 22:11 28 June 2019
Two would-be prime ministers have gone head-to-head at a Conservative Party leadership hustings in Exeter today (Friday, June 28).
Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson fielded a wide range of questions from LBC presenter Iain Dale and the floor as they set out their stalls at Sandy Park to say why Conservative members should choose them as the next party leader.
Unsurprisingly, Brexit was a major topic, but pre-submitted questions and questions from the floor covered everything from Iran to Russia and health to housing as well as infrastructure and agriculture.
Both praised the South West and said more investment was needed in the region to put it on an equal footing with the rest of the UK.
Mr Johnson's position on Brexit is that the UK is leaving the European Union on October 31, with or without a deal.
Mr Hunt told members he would not rule out no deal but a deal was still preferable and the deadline could be moved back further if need be.
Mr Johnson came out firing, saying to the crowd: "There are all sorts of things that remain on the table, but it's a very big table. We should be trusting in our MPS to get it done.
"If I had a criticism of what's happened in the last three years, it's that we have been too defeatist in our approach to the negotiations."
He said he was 'very positive about Europe but not through the institutions of the EU'.
Mr Hunt meanwhile compared Brexit to business dealings, saying a deal was best but you also had to be prepared to walk away if needs be.
He said: "The quickest way to leave the EU is to send someone to Brussels that can negotiate a deal that can get through parliament.
"We can be the fastest growing, most pro-enterprise, pro-business, high-tech economy in the world. I want to park an economic giant on Europe's doorstep so in these negotiations they need us every bit as much as we need them."
He said if he was prime minister, Theresa May's deal would not be going back before parliament.
The candidates both highlighted that more needed to be done to bring the South West's prosperity on a par with the rest of the country.
Mr Hunt said: "I think the train service to Devon and Cornwall is totally inadequate.
"We can't just be the party of London and the South East, we have to be the party of everywhere."
Mr Johnson said that education funding in parts of rural England had failed to keep pace with other areas and should be equal.
He said more needed to be done to develop infrastructure and roads such as the A303, adding that it was 'a disgrace' not everyone in the UK had fast fibre broadband.
Both candidates were united in condemning Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and claiming he would lead the country to ruin.
When asked what job Mr Hunt would have in his government if the result went his way, Mr Johnson refused to be drawn but said there was a lot of talent in the party.
Mr Hunt indicated he could offer Mr Johnson a job, but said that would be a discussion he would have to have with him.
Each candidate spoke for almost an hour and at the end of the hustings, sections of the crowd stood to applaud both men.
Around 100,000 Conservative members will be casting their votes for their new leader this July.