London, United Kingdom – The frontrunner in the battle to become Britain’s next prime minister gained further ground against his rival in a television debate dubbed by one observer as “the madman versus the manager”.
Experts say that despite coming under pressure in an at times tetchy debate, Boris Johnson scored where it mattered – among the Conservative Party members whose votes are set to propel him into No 10 Downing Street.
Postal ballots went out four days ago to the 160,000 party members who are able to vote and, as many will have already done so, the debate is unlikely to be a game changer in the run-up to the result on July 23.
Anthony Ridge-Newman, a senior lecturer at Liverpool Hope University and the head of conservatism studies in the UK, believes Johnson is set to win.
“I am very confident that most Conservative Party members will have already returned their ballot papers – they would have already made their decision and that would have probably been for Boris.
“After this debate, I would suggest that among party members who were undecided Boris has come out on top. I expect the polling we have seen that puts Boris strongly out ahead with two thirds of the vote will hold for the actual result.”
The debate on the ITV network was the first head-to-head between Johnson and his rival Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, and comes after weeks of campaigning in which a large field of candidates was whittled down to two.
The winner will become the UK’s prime minister, replacing Theresa May, whose failure to secure backing for her Brexit deal on the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union sparked her resignation.