TV debate between Truss and Sunak cancelled after presenter faints – The Guardian

The second TV debate between the Conservative leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak was halted dramatically after the presenter Kate McCann fainted, cutting short a bitter clash over funding for the NHS and tax cuts.

The event, hosted by TalkTV, had the Tory leadership hopefuls quizzed by one audience member with cancer, who said he had not received proper support from the health service and asked: “Why is the NHS broken?”

The pair talked up plans including cutting the number of NHS managers and rolling out new technology. Truss argued too much of the health service’s infrastructure was crumbling, saying a hospital in her Norfolk constituency was “being held up by stilts”.

But the scheduled hour-long debate was halted just under halfway through after McCann fainted off-camera while Truss was talking.

Viewers heard a loud crash, with Truss looking shocked and holding her hands to her face. She began walking towards where McCann had been standing before the video feed was cut. The debate did not resume.

The station said later that McCann, its political editor, “fainted on air tonight and although she is fine, the medical advice was that we shouldn’t continue with the debate”.

Truss, who polling suggests is ahead of Sunak in the vote of Conservative party members to find a replacement for Boris Johnson, repeated her attacks on Sunak’s decision to increase national insurance to finance Covid catch-up for the NHS and social care, one of the biggest dividing lines between the pair.

“What has happened is that the tax has been raised on families through national insurance so that they are having to pay more money to the Treasury,” Truss said in answering an audience member’s question about the cost of living.

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

Sunak responded by again castigating Truss’s proposal to delay paying back some debts accrued during Covid, which she argues would allow the same increase in NHS and social care spending without raising taxes.

“What’s morally wrong is asking our children and grandchildren to pick up the tab for the bills that we are not prepared to meet,” the former chancellor said.

In choosing to increase national insurance to pay for the NHS, Sunak said, he had made a “brave decision to get it the support it needed”.

He said: “It wasn’t an easy thing for me to do, I got a lot of criticism for it, but I believe it was the right thing to do because I don’t think we can have an NHS which is ultimately the country’s number one public service priority that is underfunded and not able to deliver the care it needs.”

Truss, who said she had opposed the tax rise in cabinet, said the NHS could save money with less “directing and micromanaging people on the frontline”.

Questioned by an audience member from Birmingham, John Hughes, who said he was reliant on help from a charity to support him with cancer, Truss said: “What I want to see is fewer layers of management in the National Health Service and less central direction, because I simply don’t think that people can sit there in Whitehall and direct everything that happens in local communities across our country.”

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Sunak said he wanted the health service to make better use of technology and to roll out “surgical hubs” to cut the backlog of treatments.

In an exchange in which the pair risked condemning the record of the government in which they served, 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. The Queen Elizabeth hospital in King’s Lynn, near me – bits of the hospital are being held up by stilts. That is not good enough for patients across the NHS.”

The concrete-built Queen Elizabeth hospital has 1,500 support props keeping the roof in place, with patients and staff saying they can hear the structure crack and creak as it shifts.

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TV debate between Truss and Sunak cancelled after presenter faints – The Guardian

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