LBC presenter James O’Brien was forced to “dump” a comment from Rory Stewart after the Tory leadership hopeful swore live on air. Mr Stewart was referring to the foul-mouthed criticism he receives from both Brexiteers and Remainers. He began: “I’m finding that I’m getting extraordinary abuse not just from Brexiteers but also from Remainers. I just had a Remainer calling me a ‘belittling s***’”.
Mr O’Brien interjected: “I think we may have had to dump your last comment on the grounds of OFCOM rules.”
Mr Stewart continued: “I just had Remainers saying that I should be ‘first against the wall’, I’ve had Remainers trying to compare me to an appeaser.
“So I don’t think either side here has a monopoly on virtue.”
The comments come as Mr Stewart surged ahead in the Tory leadership contest, ahead of his rival Michael Gove.
Mr Gove urged MPs not to “polarise” the party, with Mr Stewart winning over Remain voters to become the second favourite in the Tory leadership race, behind hardline Brexiteer Boris Johnson.
Their differing Brexit positions have pushed out Mr Gove so he is now in fourth place in betting odds.
Mr Johnson is a favourite to be one of the final two candidates put to Tory members in the deciding round of voting, but momentum for the International Development Secretary has unsettled rivals battling for the second position.
Mr Gove urged his colleagues to avoid aggravating Conservative Party divisions by ensuring both the final candidates are Brexiteers.
He wrote in The Times: “It would be a mistake to put forward two candidates to the final round who will polarise our party.”
The Environment Secretary doesn’t name Mr Stewart, but he is the only candidate not claiming to be able to seal a Brexit deal better than the much-criticised one Theresa May struck with the European Union.
Mr Gove added: “As well as having the ability to take on Corbyn, the final two should be candidates who believe in Brexit, who can deliver it and who can unite the party.
“I’m the only candidate in this race who both believes in Brexit through and through and who all the other contenders would willingly serve under.”
Last night, Mr Stewart’s campaign was boosted by the backing of Cabinet Office Minister and defect deputy Prime Minister David Lidington.
This afternoon, the battle for Tory leadership intensifies with the second round of voting, with the candidates needing to secure at least 33 votes from Tory MPs to progress.