Related video: Sky News' Beth Rigby calls Rishi Sunak a 'corrosive person' at campaign launch

Sky News

While Tory MPs standing to be the next leader of the Conservative Party hope to build momentum behind their campaign, there is perhaps one journalist who’s certainly catching them off-guard, and that’s Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby.

As the week began with a host of campaign launches and the first round of voting by Tory MPs – which saw hopefuls Nadhim Zahawi and Jeremy Hunt eliminated – reporters have been quizzing the candidates on what their government could look like if they land the top job.

Though it’s Ms Rigby in particular who’s been trending online this week, as she certainly hasn’t held back in her description of each of the hopefuls, their chances and their past behaviour.

Allow us to explain in this round-up of her questioning during the leadership campaign so far.

Rishi Sunak: “You’re an utterly corrosive figure in the parliamentary party for a big chunk of it”

The most high-profile question put by Ms Rigby to a Tory leadership hopeful came when she asked a question of former chancellor Rishi Sunak: “You’ve just stood here and said Boris Johnson’s a ‘remarkable’ person, you don’t want history to demonise him, but the fact is: the party’s just ousted him on the basis of conduct, probity and causing division.

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“Here you are, and I have to put it to you that you have a police fine over Partygate, and there have been questions too over your very wealthy family avoiding paying millions of pounds in tax due to your wife being a non-dom taxpayer.

“I know that arrangement has changed, but that was until very recently, and I have to say you’re an utterly corrosive figure in the parliamentary party for a big chunk of it.”

It was the response to question from those in the audience which sparked condemnation from people online, as the crowd could be heard booing Ms Rigby.

It also seemed as though her mic was cut off towards the end of her question, where she asked Mr Sunak if he was really a “clean start” or just “more of the same”.

The Tory frontrunner didn’t appear to intervene when the audience drowned out the Sky News journalist either, just to further demonstrate just how troubling the whole situation was.

Fortunately, Ms Rigby stood defiant in spite of the hostility, with the camera catching her giving an unapologetic shrug as she handed back the microphone.

Absolutely iconic.

After letting out a small awkward laugh, Mr Sunak said: “I think it’s important that whoever wins this election does restore trust, because trust has been broken and we need to resolve all of that with the country – that’s why it’s something that I’m keen to do as leader.

“I think I can do that, and it’s about the conduct of government, which is important, and you can expect that’s the kind of leadership I’ll provide.”

He also claimed the “breadth of support” from across the political party has “really humbled” him.

Penny Mordaunt: “The public have no idea who you are”

Turning to trade minister Penny Mordaunt, the Sky News reporter described the Royal Navy reservist as a “big unknown” in the leadership contest.

She continued: “You were never a Johnson supporter, you were never part of his reshuffled cabinet … The public have no idea who you are.

“One diarist described you as, ‘Theresa May with bigger hair’. Are you, and if you win this big election, will you – like May – call another general election to give you a mandate, rather than riding on the pigtails of Boris Johnson?”

After letting out a few small smiles as Ms Rigby asked her question, Ms Mordaunt said: “I was a candidate at the last general election. I stood on the same platform as these good people in front of me, and I think what the public want us to do is to deliver on that mandate.”

Oh, and the political editor isn’t wrong about the familiarity comment, either. According to an Ipsos poll released on Wednesday, a third of those surveyed said they had “never heard of” Ms Mordaunt, with only 20 per cent saying they knew “a great deal” or “a fair amount” about her.

Liz Truss: “Kiss of death”

At the end of Liz Truss’ campaign launch, Ms Rigby asked the foreign secretary: “You’ve just said that the country wants a modern and united Conservative Party, but the two candidates ahead of you in this race have one thing in common: they’re a break from Boris Johnson.

“Rishi Sunak resigned from his government – you did not – and Penny Mordaunt was never in his cabinet, or only for a brief moment. They’ve leapfrogged you in the race.

“Given the bitter divisions of recent months, is Boris Johnson’s tacit backing of you the kiss of death for your candidacy, given that the party wants change, even if you did not?”

Ouch.

Ms Truss responded: “The change we need to deliver, is change on the economy. We’ve had sluggish growth for two decades, and we need a new economic plan.

“I’m somebody who can work with a team from right across the Conservative Party to deliver on transforming our economy, cutting taxes for ordinary people across the country, getting investment into all areas … helping us deliver the next general election, but most importantly, helping us deliver a brighter future for Britain.”

Tom Tugendhat: Final three “looks unlikely”

When the Foreign Affairs Select Committee chair held a press conference in Parliament Square on Wednesday, Ms Rigby was particularly frank about his chances of getting down to the final stages of the leadership contest.

She asked Mr Tugendhat: “You know you are the main candidate at the moment for the One Nation Conservatives, and if you don’t get through to the final three – which I have to say to you, looks unlikely - … who would you prefer to have in the final three?

“Presumably, you would back Penny Mordaunt, because she also is a One Nation Conservative.”

After responding “I don’t think so” to the political editor’s assumption, the Tory hopeful replied: “I think what you’ve got to look at, is you’ve got to look at who’s supporting who at this stage. You use your description, I’ll use mine.”

He went on to add that he had the support of Vote Leave campaign member Anne-Marie Trevelyan, so-called ‘Red Wall’ MPs, and former Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry. He also disagreed with Ms Rigby’s “premise”.

It was also Ms Rigby’s follow-up question which led Mr Tugendhat to deploy the “knife fight in a phone box” analogy which raised eyebrows online.

Keep it coming, Beth!

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