TV debate between Truss and Sunak canceled after presenter fainted | conservative leadership

The second TV debate between Conservative leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak was dramatically interrupted after presenter Kate McCann fainted, ending a bitter row over NHS funding and tax cuts.

At the event, hosted by TalkTV, Tory leadership hopefuls were quizzed by a viewer with cancer, who said he had not received adequate support from the health service and asked: “Why is the NHS broken?”

The pair addressed plans including reducing the number of NHS managers and rolling out new technology. Arguing that too much of the healthcare infrastructure was crumbling, Truss said a hospital in her Norfolk constituency was “held up by stilts”.

But the planned hour-long debate was cut short just halfway after McCann fainted off-camera while Truss was speaking.

Onlookers heard a loud crash, Truss looked shocked and covered his face with his hands. She walked toward where McCann had been standing before the video feed broke. The debate did not continue.

The station later said McCann, its political editor, “passed out on air tonight and although she is fine, the medical advice was that we should not continue the debate”.

Truss, who is polled ahead of Sunak in the vote by Conservative Party members to find a replacement for Boris Johnson, repeated her attacks on Sunak’s decision to increase National Insurance to help the NHS and social care catch-up from Covid finance, one of the biggest dividing lines between the couple.

“What happened is that the tax on families was increased by Social Security, so they have to pay more money to the Treasury,” Truss replied when asked by a viewer about the cost of living.

“I think that at this moment, when families are struggling to pay for food, it is morally wrong that we have imposed taxes on ordinary people, even though we said in our manifesto that we wouldn’t, and even though we didn’t have to do this.”

Sunak responded by again chastising Truss’s proposal to defer repayment of some debts accumulated during Covid, which she said would allow for the same increase in NHS and social spending without raising taxes.

“What is morally wrong is to ask our children and grandchildren to foot the bill for the bills that we are not prepared to pay,” said the former chancellor.

When he decided to increase National Insurance to pay for the NHS, Sunak said he made a “bold decision to get him the support he needed”.

He said: “It hasn’t been easy for me, I’ve had a lot of criticism for it, but I think it was the right thing to do because I don’t think we can have an NHS, which is ultimately the number one priority in the public service of the country that is underfunded and unable to provide the care required.”

Truss, who said she opposed the tax hike in Cabinet, said the NHS could save money if it did less “manage and micromanage people on the front line”.

When asked by a Birmingham viewer, John Hughes, who said he relied on the help of a charity to support him with cancer, Truss said: “What I’d like to see is fewer levels of management in the National Health Service and one less centralized Leadership because I just don’t think that people can sit there in Whitehall and steer everything that’s happening in the local communities of our country.”

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Sunak said he wanted health services to make better use of technology and set up “surgical centers” to reduce the backlog of treatments.

In an exchange in which the pair risked condemning the government’s record in which they serve, Truss said that as Prime Minister she would “put more money into the physical fabric” of the NHS.

She said: “I’m afraid some of our hospitals are falling apart. Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, near me – parts of the hospital are supported by stilts. That’s not good enough for patients across the NHS.”

Constructed of concrete, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital has 1,500 support columns holding the roof in place. Patients and staff say they can hear the structure cracking and creaking as it shifts.

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