Tory leadership hopefuls consider BBC debate boycott after question from controversial imam

Sources close to candidates query future participation after 'Zionist's payroll' imam allowed question at last debate


Several Tory leadership hopefuls are reportedly considering boycotting the next BBC debate after the corporation allowed an imam who made controversial statements about Zionism, Israel and the Jewish people to put a question to the candidates at the last event.

Abdullah Patel, from Bristol, asked Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart about Islamophobia during Tuesday’s televised debate.

It later emerged Mr Patel had written on Twitter, "How long are the Zionists going to hide behind the Holocaust cry? It was a tragedy, but Gaza today is a repeat of the oppression." He also tweeted: “Every political figure on the Zionist’s payroll is scaring the world about Corbyn.”

Following the revelations, imam was suspended from schools where he was head and deputy head, and from his post at a mosque.

The BBC is planning a Question Time programme with the final two candidates, which could include one-to-one interviews with Andrew Neil.

Speaking about Tuesday night's debate, a friend of Sajid Javid told the Telegraph: "It wasn't an edifying format and if they want to make a pitch for another TV debate you would want it to be a bit more thought through.

"It will play into our thinking as to whether we agree or don't agree to another BBC event. ITV, Sky and Channel 4 all want to do a head to head as well and the Channel 4 debate on Sunday was very well done.”

A source close to Jeremy Hunt said: "We are reserving judgement but it's fair to say we didn't think it was brilliant."

Another source close to Boris Johnson told the Telegraph: “It hasn't helped the BBC's case for hosting a Question Time-style debate.”

It also emerged after Tuesday night’s debate that Mr Patel also had posted a graphic showing Israel being relocated inside America as a “solution for Israel-Palestine conflict” – the same one that Labour MP Naz Shah shared in 2016, leading to her being briefly suspended from the party.

An earlier version of this article stated that Mr Patel had tweeted that he had "consulted the Muslim Council of Britain and Islamist advocacy group MEND ahead of his BBC appearance". This was incorrect, and we apologise for the error

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