Rishi Sunak was deemed to have won Sky News’ Battle for Number 10 after the majority of audience members voted for him over rival Liz Truss.
Ms Truss and Mr Sunak faced tough challenges from Conservative members who are mostly undecided, followed by questions from Sky News’ Kay Burley.
After the pair put forward their arguments for why they should replace Boris Johnson as leader of the Tory party, and therefore prime minister, the audience members were asked who they thought had won the argument.
The audience, made up of Conservative Party members, convincingly backed Mr Sunak in a show of hands, rather than Ms Truss – who has been winning polls since the battle was whittled down to two.
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Ms Truss put herself forward as the candidate of integrity, repeatedly saying she will always listen to people and will do something different if a policy is not working.
She said a recession is “not inevitable”, hours after interest rates were hiked, and promised “bold” action compared with Mr Sunak’s caution.
However, former chancellor Mr Sunak said Ms Truss’ vision “will make the situation worse” as he reminded audience members of his actions to help people during the COVID pandemic.
He stressed a need to get a grip on runaway inflation before cutting taxes, adding: “But it all starts with not making the situation worse.
“Because if we just put fuel on the fire of this inflation spiral, all of us, all of you, are just going to end up with higher mortgage rates, savings and pensions that are eaten away, and misery for millions.”