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The mercury is about to hit 40C – and the heat was almost as dangerous in the ITV studio tonight.

Tory leadership candidates clashed viciously over each other’s records on tax, the economy and other issues in the second televised debate.

Gloves were off as Liz Truss made a catty remark about Rishi Sunak ’s expensive private education and accused him of leading Britain towards recession.

In return, Rishi Sunak branded her approach “something-for-nothing economics” and said Penny Mordaunt ’s plans were “wrong and dangerous”.

Ms Truss then laughably insisted: “I believe in the Ronald Reagan dictum that you shouldn’t speak ill of a fellow conservative”.

The bitter party battle to succeed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister descended into chaotic infighting as the five candidates ripped into their rivals’ records – ahead of the next MP ballot tomorrow night that will knock one of them out.

With no studio audience, Ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak was ambushed by three of his opponents for No10 as ITV debate host Julie Etchingham invited each to pose one question to a candidate of their choice.

Kemi Badenoch accused Mr Sunak of dismissing fraud by businesses benefiting from Covid-19 bailouts – an allegation he claimed was “absolutely not true”.

Ex-Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt asked him why he refused to raise spending on the military, which he denied.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss challenged him on whether he still believed the UK should do more business with China.

Mr Sunak was also forced to defend his wife Akshata’s previous non-domiciled tax status and her family’s vast wealth.

No love was lost between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss ( PA)

The Indian heiress and Mr Sunak are reportedly worth £730million, according to The Sunday Times Rich List.

“I’ve always been a completely normal UK taxpayer, my wife is from another country so she’s treated differently, but she explained that in the spring and she resolved that issue,” former hedge fund boss Mr Sunak squirmed.

Of course, there were also important issues for the country – such as all five of them refusing a 5% pay rise for public sector workers.

And some of the bad blood was directed towards Boris Johnson, with none of them saying they’d give him a job in the Cabinet.

Here’s a handful of remarks that show how difficult it’s going to be to put the Tory party back together again after September 6.

Liz Truss’s brutal ‘recession’ attack on Rishi Sunak

Liz Truss opened the debate with a no-holds-barred swipe at Rishi Sunak over tax cuts – an issue she knows will give her the edge with Tory members.

Perhaps she was getting back at him over a video Mr Sunak released an hour before the debate, pointing out he’d always backed Brexit and she hadn’t.

She told the ex-Chancellor: “Rishi, you raised taxes to the highest level in 70 years. That is not going to drive economic growth.

Rishi Sunak was repeatedly forced onto the defensive ( ITV via Getty Images)

“You raised national insurance, even though people like me opposed it in cabinet at the time, because we could have afforded to fund the NHS through general taxation.

“The fact is that raising taxes at this moment will choke off economic growth.”

She added: “Under your plans, we are predicted to have a recession.

“Because you have raised tax it is cutting back on growth, it is preventing companies from investing, and it is taking money out of people’s pockets.”

Rishi Sunak’s ‘something-for-nothing economics’ swipe at Liz Truss

Rishi Sunak hit back, pointing out Britain had just been through Covid and attacking Ms Truss’s litany of unfunded tax cuts.

“I’d love to stand here and say look, I’ll cut this tax, that tax and another tax and it will all be okay. But you know what? It won’t,” he said.

“There’s a cost to these things, the cost of higher inflation, higher mortgage rates, eroded savings. And you know what – this something for nothing economics isn’t conservative, it’s socialism.”

He said he did have a plan for growth, to which Ms Truss hit back: “If Rishi has got this great plan for growth, why haven’t we seen it in his last two and a half years at the Treasury?”

But he said: “We’ve actually got to the point where even Keir Starmer is attacking leadership candidates for peddling the fantasy economics of unfunded promises.

“If we’re not for sound money, what is the point in the Conservative Party?”

His attack on Penny Mordaunt’s ‘dangerous’ thinking

Mr Sunak also hit back under fire from Penny Mordaunt, claiming she had proposed “borrowing to fund our day to day spending”.

Mr Sunak said: “Now, it’s one thing to borrow for long term investment.

“But it’s a whole other thing to put the day to day bills on the country’s credit card and we know how that ends. It’s not just wrong. It’s dangerous.

“And you know what – even Jeremy Corbyn didn’t suggest that we should go that far.”

Ms Mordaunt had insisted her tax cuts wouldn’t contribute to inflation – but hasn’t spelt out what she’d cut. She said Brits “need some immediate action now – I don’t understand why Rishi doesn’t accept that.”

Penny Mordaunt was told by her rival: “Even Jeremy Corbyn didn’t suggest that we should go that far” ( ITV via Getty Images)

Claims Rishi Sunak ‘dismissed’ fears over Covid loan fraud

The candidates were given a chance to pose one question to one of their rivals.

And three of them – Kemi Badenoch, Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt – all gunned for the frontrunner Mr Sunak.

Ex-Treasury minister Ms Badenoch had the sharpest question, accusing him of “dismissing” fears over Covid loan fraud – which later came to £17bn.

She said: “When we both worked in the Treasury, myself and other ministers raised the issue of Covid loan fraud.

“You dismissed that and it’s cost taxpayers £17bn. Why didn’t you take us seriously?”

Mr Sunak hit back that it was “absolutely not right”, there had been dozens of arrests and billions returned to the Treasury. He added: “We were on the precipice of over a million businesses going to the wall, millions of people losing their jobs.”

Tory leadership election 2022

Liz Truss’ put-down over Rishi Sunak’s school

Rishi Sunak thought he was onto a winner by asking Liz Truss: “In your past you’ve been both a Liberal Democrat and a Remainer. I was just wondering which one you regretted most?”

But Ms Truss responded by comparing her background to Mr Sunak’s education at posh private school Winchester College.

She said: “I went to school in Paisley and Leeds, I went to a comprehensive school. My parents were left wing activists and I’ve been on a political journey ever since.

“The reason I am a Conservative is I saw kids at my school being left out in Leeds, I saw them not get the opportunities, not getting the proper educational standards that you might have got at your school, Rishi.”

Stumbling over her words, she added: “I saw them wasted… having wasted potential, and I saw that waste was wrong.”

Kemi Badenoch, pictured, was not impressed by Tom Tudendhat ( Jonathan Hordle/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)
Tom Tugendhat was not impressed by anyone ( JONATHAN HORDLE/ITV/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Jibes from the outsiders – and to them

Tom Tugendhat, the only candidate not to have served in government, said: “At the moment, we’re getting definite promises of jam tomorrow when a lot of people are looking for bread today.”

He said he was trying to work out what the candidates were now “disowning” from their own time in government.

But he was attacked by Kemi Badenoch – herself only a junior minister and seen as an outsider – for sniping from the sidelines.

She said: “Serving in government is not easy, it requires difficult decisions. Tom has never done that – it’s very easy for him to criticise.”

ITV moderator Julie Etchingham ( PA)

And finally… the coldest of put-downs to Boris Johnson

Not ONE of the Tory leadership candidates tonight said they would put Boris Johnson in their Cabinet in a brutal moment on TV.

Tom Tugendhat, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Kemi Badenoch were asked twice to raise their hands if they would be happy to let the resigning PM serve – if he wanted to.

But none of them raised their hands despite being given ample chance to do so.

It came days after the first TV debate, where none of the candidates were able to say Mr Johnson was honest – and one, Mr Tugendhat, said he was not.

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