The five contenders for the Tory leadership clashed on tax, social care and Brexit during a sometimes fractious, but largely inconclusive TV debate.
Tuesday night’s TV debate saw Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Rory Stewart and Sajid Javid outlining their differing policy views.
One thing they did all agree on however was an external investigation into Islamophobia within their party.
Sajid Javid pushed his competitors into signing up to an inquiry into anti-Muslim hate among Tory members.
The Tories have faced calls – including from former party chair Baroness Warsi – for more than a year to investigate Islamophobia within their ranks.
These have grown louder in recent months due to an increase in reporting of allegations against members.
Mr Javid, the home secretary, challenged his fellow Conservative leadership candidates to all agree to an external probe into the issue.
With the other contenders appearing to nod their agreement, Mr Javid said: “You all good guys? Shall we have an external investigation into the Conservative Party and Islamophobia?
“Excellent, they agree.”
He added: “It’s right to have that concern – of growing anti-Muslim hatred in our country – certainly over the last few years in all parts of society.
“Wherever that is, including in political parties, it must be absolutely rooted out.
“We are today one of the most successful multi-racial democracies in the world, whatever your race, whatever your religious background, and that’s what we’ve got to remain.
“But we can’t be complacent, we have to work hard.”
The debate also saw leadership frontrunner Mr Johnson, who has previously compared burka-wearing women to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”, challenged over his choice of words.
He said: “In so far as my words have given offence over the last 20 or 30 years, when I have been a journalist and people have taken those words out of my articles and escalated them, of course I am sorry for the offence they have caused.
“When my Muslim great-grandfather came to this country in fear of his life in 1912, he did so because he knew it was a place that was a beacon of generosity and openness, and a willingness to welcome people around the world.
“If I am prime minister I will ensure that is the way our country acts and behaves.”
Agreement on tackling Islamophobia was a rare moment of harmony in the debate. Taxation was one area in particular where the candidates’ paths appeared to diverge.
Mr Johnson defended, albeit halfheartedly, his previously stated view that the threshold for paying the top rate of tax should be increased.
That was rejected by Mr Hunt.
He wants a cut in corporation tax and said people accused the Tories of being “the party of the rich”.
Mr Gove also poured cold water on Mr Johnson’s proposal saying: “Cutting taxes for folk who earn what MPs earn and what millionaires earn, I think that is wrong.”
Mr Stewart made clear that funding public services – and not tax cuts – would be his priority.
Calling for “honest and realistic” politics, he said: “The thing that slightly depresses me in this debate is everybody is promising things – they are promising they are going to get a new deal out of Brussels that they are not going to get.
“They are promising they are going to get a no deal through parliament, which they can’t deliver.
“And they are now promising – cumulatively, all of them together have promised – nearly £84bn worth of tax cuts.”
And on Brexit Mr Stewart insisted that Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement was the only route out of the EU.
Mr Gove described the deal as “cold porridge” that had been rejected by parliament three times already.
Mr Johnson and Mr Javid maintained that the 31 October deadline for leaving the EU had to be met, but both Mr Gove and Mr Hunt said they would be willing to consider a further delay if a fresh deal was within reach.