The MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip Boris Johnson has had his leadership ambitions called into question by the former SNP leader Alex Salmond during a heated European Union (EU) debate last night (June 14).
Boris, the former Mayor of London and leading Brexit figure, was deemed to have 'won' the debate alongside fellow Leave campaigner Priti Patel, despite taking flak from Salmond for not reading an immigration study he was quoting.
The 90-minute debate was hosted by The Telegraph, the Huffington Post and YouTube in central-London and was attended by Telegraph and Huffington Post readers.
Salmond was arguing the case for Britain to remain a part of the European Union alongside Labour MP Liz Kendall.
Immigration was at the top of the agenda with the first audience member asking 'what is an acceptable level?'
Boris, who writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, said: “First of all let me say I'm pro-immigration.
“I'm the beneficiary of this country's generosity to my Turkish grandfather many years ago. He came here in 1912.
“Net migration from the European Union is running at a rate of about 184,000 last year. I think most people in this country think that is very high indeed and probably too high.
“I would say that we need to go lower but the only way to do that is to take back control of our immigration policy.”
He added that he supports and Australian points based immigration system, where an applicant is awarded with points based on age, qualifications and working experience – an idea widely touted by Nigel Farage and Ukip.
But former candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party Liz Kendall hit back, saying that immigration is often referred to like a 'disease'.
She said: Migration actually contributes a huge amount to this country.
“They do put in more than they take out.
“Immigration does bring pressures and I think these have to be dealt with.
“But some times we talk about immigration as if it is a disease.”
'I have not read that study'
Boris, who has been the Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip since last May, was put on the back foot during the debate by Salmond after he quoted a Bank of England report he had not actually read.
He quoted Marks & Spencer boss Lord Rose as saying immigration pushes down wages and went on to say the Bank of England had said the same thing.
He said: "When you have large movements of labour across the EU as we are seeing, you have a compressing effect on wages. I thought that was very significant.
"It was a Bank of England study which said for every 10% increase in immigration there was a 2% reduction in wages."
When asked if by Salmond if he had read the study, the Uxbridge MP replied: “I have not read that study.”
Salmond went on: "I've taken the trouble of reading the study. It was by Stephen Nickell and Jumana Salaheen.
"It says a 10% rise in immigration would result in one third of one pence, diminution of average wages. One third of one pence. A result of EU immigration, because that's overall immigration."
The pair were at it again when Salmond raised questions over Boris' ambitions follow David Cameron as the next Prime Minister.
The former Scottish First Minister said: “I think its a perfectly honourable position for you to want to become Prime Minister. I think a lot of politicians want that sort of thing.
“My worry is not you wanting to be Prime Minister, it's what you would do when you were Prime Minister.”
A poll held on The Telegraph's website gave the Leave team of Boris and Patel a significant win during the debate, securing 81% (13,408) of the votes.
Salmond and Kendall for the Remain side picked up only 3,145 (19%) of the 16,554 votes cast in the poll.
Britain is set to make a 'once-in-a-lifetime' decision in just a week's time, when polls for the referendum on the country's EU membership open next Thursday (June 23).