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Tory Leadership: Sunak v Truss

News Commentary

July 20, 2022.

Tory leadership rivals Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak will face each other in the battle to replace Boris Johnson as Tory leader and Prime Minister. The pair emerged in first and second place in the final ballot of Tory MPs with former favourite Penny Mordaunt finishing third.

In the final ballot, Mr Sunak won 137 votes with Ms Truss on 113 and Ms Mordaunt on 105.

Ms Truss and Mr Sunak now face a ballot of around 160,000 Tory Party members, with the result to be announced on September 5 when MPs return from the summer recess.

Speaking at his final PMQs on Wednesday July 20, outgoing PM Boris Johnson ended with some words of advice for the two contenders:

“Focus on the road ahead, but always remember to check the rear-view mirror. And remember above all it’s not Twitter that counts, it’s the people who sent us here.”

Liz Truss says she will embrace the opportunity to travel around the UK to sell her vision for tax cuts and growth to Tory members who will pick the next prime minister.

In a statement, the Foreign Secretary said: “I would like to thank each and every one of my colleagues who have supported me throughout this stage of this contest.

“I would also like to pay tribute to every candidate who stood for the leadership. Each of them has contributed enormously to the Conservative Party and to public life.

“I am excited to now take to the country to make the case to the Conservative Party about my bold new economic plan that will cut taxes, grow our economy and unleash the potential of everyone in our United Kingdom.

“As Prime Minister I would hit the ground running from day one, unite the Party and govern in line with Conservative values.

“I am incredibly proud to be a part of the Conservative and Unionist Party and am excited to spend the next few weeks proving to all of our brilliant members exactly why I am the right person to lead it, and our great nation.”

Rishi Sunak’s campaign said he had secured a “clear mandate” from Tory MPs and will now “work night and day” to win the backing of the Conservative membership after he made it onto the final ballot for the leadership contest.

A statement read: “This is a really strong result with a clear mandate from MPs. He will now work night and day to get the mandate from the wider Conservative party family to beat Labour, protect the Union and seize the opportunities of Brexit.

“The choice for members is very simple: who is the best person to beat Labour at the next election? The evidence shows that’s Rishi.”

Rishi Sunak has held a fairly commanding lead during the course of this contest and can rightly be considered the favourite - among MPs in the House of Commons.

However, whether or not that translates into enough to be elected as leader by Conservative party members is another matter. Despite his flaws, Boris Johnson retains much support among the party faithful and across the country. Sunak is widely perceived to have precipitated his former boss's departure by resigning when he did (along with Sajid Javid) and setting the led for the slew of resignations that followed.

On top of that, the speed with which slick presentations were made to promote his credentials as party leader and thus Prime Minister suggested to many that he had been plotting for some time to oust Johnson. Only Sunak himself can comment on the truth or otherwise of this but his immediate opponent, Liz Truss, is free of any such accusations.

That said, she has presented herself as a potential PM for some time, riding around in a tank for example, and apparently modelling herself as Margaret Thatcher Mk II. That isn't necessarily a good look and she also has the problem of not being a very inspirational figure and not especially skilled at public speaking. But then, Thatcher wasn't either.

One of the criticisms aimed at Kemi Badenoch was that she was too young and inexperienced for the post as PM.

Yet Badenoch and Sunak are the same age, both held the same mid-level ministerial jobs and before Boris Johnson gave him a leg up to Chancellor, he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury for a year. That's all.

Liz Truss on the other hand, does have much more cabinet experience and has proved herself on the world stage already. She may well represent the better choice.

Tory MPs have shown themselves to be woefully out of touch (as have Labour MPs) but we hope that whichever one is elected as leader and thus becomes Prime Minister surprises us all with their time running the UK on behalf of its citizens and has the wisdom to bring Kemi Badenoch into the cabinet in a senior role and at some point in the future, make way for her to succeed them.

KJM Today 2022.

Image - Jonathan Hordle/ITV Handout

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