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June 19, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 7:56am

BBC Tory leadership debate watched by more than five million

By James Walker

More than 5m people watched the BBC’s Conservative Party leadership debate last night, the broadcaster has said.

The hour-long programme at 8pm, called Our Next Prime Minister and hosted by Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, was watched by 5.7m viewers at its peak with an average viewership of 5.28m.

The figures dwarf those of Channel 4’s rival debate, broadcast two days earlier, which had 1.3m viewers on average, peaking at 1.5m.

The BBC claimed its leadership debate was the “best performing programme of the night across all channels”.

Tory leadership front runner Boris Johnson was present for the BBC show after snubbing scrutiny from Channel 4 on Sunday.

He was joined by the four other remaining candidates: Rory Stewart, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt.

Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab was knocked out of the competition earlier in the day.

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The BBC format saw members of the public question the five would-be Prime Ministers under moderation from Maitlis, including one who it has since been revealed has made “extremely disturbing” comments on social media.

Guido Fawkes revealed that Abdullah Patel had tweeted about politicians “on the Zionist’s payroll” and shared a picture in support of “relocating” Israel to the United States.

A BBC spokesperson said: “We carried out background research into the online and social media profiles of all our questioners for last night’s debate.

“Following the debate, one individual reactivated a public Twitter account he had previously deactivated, whose tweets were not visible during our research period.

“Had we been aware of the views he expressed there he would not have been selected.”

BBC 5 Live presenter Nicky Campbell has since apologised for having Patel on the station’s breakfast show this morning.

He tweeted: “I would like to apologise. We had the Imam from the BBC Tory leadership debate on our programme this morning.

“His social media comments have been extremely disturbing. We should have checked. We didn’t. I’m sorry.”

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