Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss head-to-head debate abandoned as host Kate McCann faints during live TV clash

The second head-to-head Conservative leadership debate was dramatically cut short on Tuesday evening after journalist Kate McCann fainted live on air.

Liz Truss was answering a question on Russia before being interrupted by a loud crashing noise about half an hour into the Sun/TalkTV debate.

The Foreign Secretary held her hands to her face, and said: “Oh my God,” before walking towards the area where host Kate McCann had been standing.

It later emerged that McCann had fainted, but was recovering.

A News UK spokeswoman confirmed: “Kate McCann fainted on air tonight and although she is fine, the medical advice was that we shouldn’t continue with the debate.

“We apologise to our viewers and listeners.”

Rishi Sunak suggested he would be happy to pick up the debate on another date, tweeting: “Good news that you’re already recovering @KateEMcCann. It was a great debate and I look forward to getting grilled by you again shortly!”

Ms Truss tweeted: “Relieved to hear @KateEMcCann is fine. Really sorry that such a good debate had to end. Look forward to catching up with Kate and the rest of the @TheSun @TalkTV team again soon.”

McCann was meant to appear alongside The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole, but he tested positive for Covid-19 earlier on Tuesday, leaving her to host alone.

TalkTV host Ian Collins informed views that after the feed was cut, the candidates remained in the studio “having discussions and Q&As with the audience, even though this is not being televised at the moment. They are continuing in the studio with those questions.”

He added: “Everyone is OK.”

‘She was absolutely bossing it. Very proud of my friend’

Colleagues from across the political lobby sent messages of support to Kate McCann after the incident.

The Sun’s Harry Cole, who missed out on co-hosting the debate due to Covid, tweeted: “She was absolutely bossing it. Very proud of my friend.”

Newsnight political editor Nicholas Watt wrote: “Great to hear Kate McCann is OK. For those of us lucky enough to work with Kate in the lobby there was no surprise to see her doing a superb job chairing tonight’s debate.

The Press Association’s political editor David Hughes wrote: “Kate is a legend. One of the nicest people in the lobby, smart and tough. She was doing an excellent job moderating that debate. Get well soon.”

TalkTV’s Tom Newton Dunn wrote: “I know from working with Kate McCann every night that she is one of the very best in the business at holding politicians to account. She proved that in the first half hour of the debate, and she will prove that again. She is a fantastic talent and I’m hugely proud of her.

Sky News anchor Sarah-Jane Mee wrote: “Kate will have wanted to get back up and get on with the debate… she’ll be mortified she is the story tonight but flip side of the coin is she is a brilliant political journo and more people get to know about her.”

Huffington Post’s Kevin Schofield wrote: “Kate is a brilliant colleague and a fantastic broadcaster who was doing a predictably great job of moderating tonight’s debate. Glad to hear she’s ok.”

LBC presenter Iain Dale wrote: “Sending all good wishes to Kate McCann. What an awful thing to happen to her on such a big day. And all credit to Liz Truss for her instant reaction and rushing over to help Kate.

“A shocking moment for everyone watching, as well as those in the studio.”

Earlier in the debate, both Mr Sunak and frontrunner Ms Truss opened the door to the UK lifting the ban on fracking, the controversial method of extracting gas from shale rock.

Some see it as an answer to the energy crisis but it has faced strong opposition over environmental concerns.

Asked if they would support fracking both candidates replied with identical answers: “Yes, if local communities support it.”

Both candidates also committed to keeping the 5p a litre cut in fuel duty announced by Mr Sunak in the autumn Budget when he was chancellor.

The pair were facing off in their second head-to-head TV debate, amid pleas from Tory grandees for them to scale back aggression and personal attacks to avoid toxifying the party.

Mr Sunak opened the debate by wishing Ms Truss a happy birthday, in an apparent bid to lighten the tone, while Ms Truss said she had “run out of questions” to ask him rather than go on an immediate attack.

But they soon clashed over each other’s tax plans, each branding their opponent’s proposals “morally wrong”.

Ms Truss has promised tens of billions of pounds’ worth of immediate tax cuts to help with the cost of living crisis.

However, Mr Sunak has insisted that cutting taxes now would only fuel soaring inflation, which is driving the cost of living crisis, and add to the huge public-sector debt left by Covid-19.

Liz Truss reacts after host Kate McCann faints in the studio

Ms Truss told the debate that Mr Sunak’s decision to proceed with an increase in national insurance via the Health and Social Care Levy was “morally wrong at this moment when families are struggling to pay for food that we have put up taxes on ordinary people when we said we wouldn’t in our manifesto and when we didn’t need to do so.”

Mr Sunak shot back, saying: “What’s morally wrong is asking our children and grandchildren to pick up the tab for the bills that we are not prepared to meet.”

Of his tax plans, Mr Sunak acknowledged that “millions of families are grappling with rising bills”, adding: “I think it’s reasonable to ask the largest companies to pay a little bit more.”

Ahead of the event, Ms Truss claimed Mr Sunak’s plans for the economy would be a “disaster” for homeowners, businesses and workers.

A fiery BBC debate on Monday saw Mr Sunak claim that his rival would “tip millions of people into misery” with her economic plans.

He accused Ms Truss of proposing “£40bn of unfunded tax cuts, £40bn more borrowing,” pointing to a warning from one of her own economic experts that the plan would drive interest rates as high as 7 per cent.

Mr Sunak concluded: “If we’re not for sound money, what is the point of the Conservative Party?”

Ms Truss hit back: “If we follow Rishi’s plan, we are heading for a recession.”

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A spokesperson for the Foreign Secretary later hit back that Mr Sunak was “not fit for office,” attacking “his aggressive mansplaining and shouty private school behaviour”.

Though polling of Tory members is imprecise, as the party keeps its membership lists private, nearly all surveys have shown Ms Truss as having a double-digit lead over Mr Sunak – whose resignation as chancellor precipitated Boris Johnson’s downfall.

What happens next in Tory leadership race

  • 28 July: Leeds hustings
  • 29 July: Andrew Neil interview with Rishi Sunak on Channel 4
  • 1 August: Ballots sent out to Tory members
  • 1 August: Exeter hustings
  • 3 August: Cardiff hustings
  • 4 August: Sky News leadership debate, hosted by Kay Burley
  • 5 August: Eastbourne hustings
  • 9 August: Darlington hustings
  • 11 August: Cheltenham hustings
  • 16 August: Perth hustings
  • 17 August: Northern Ireland hustings
  • 19 August: Manchester hustings
  • 23 August: Birmingham hustings
  • 25 August: Norwich hustings
  • 31 August: London hustings
  • 2 September: Deadline for return of ballots
  • 5 September: Winner of the contest announced
  • 6 September: New leader becomes prime minister

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