Sunak and Truss Clash Over Tax in UK Leadership Debate

Sunak and Truss Clash Over Tax in UK Leadership Debate

LONDON–British foreign minister Liz Truss clashed over tax policy with former finance minister Rishi Sunak on Friday, as the five remaining contenders to be Britain’s next prime minister went head-to-head in the first of three televised debates.

An initial field of 11 challengers has been whittled down following two days of votes by lawmakers from the ruling Conservative Party. Boris Johnson announced that he would be stepping down after a string of scandals. However, no one has emerged as the clear successor.

While Sunak has won these two votes, Truss has stiff competition. Truss has the support of several senior figures and Penny Mordaunt (a junior trade minister), who polls indicate is most popular among party members.

Former equality minister Kemi Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat (chair of the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee) are still in contention but trail other candidates in terms of support by Conservative lawmakers.

A snap poll by market research company Opinium of the British public–who do not get a say in the Conservative Party decision on the next prime minister–showed Tugendhat was viewed as the best performer by 36 percent of viewers.

Sunak came second on 24 percent, followed by Mordaunt and Badenoch on 12 percent and Truss at the rear on 7 percent.

The job is open to anyone who wants it. They will be responsible for accelerating inflation and slow economic growth.

Truss and Sunak argued over economic policy during the debate hosted by Channel 4.

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Truss has proposed scrapping increases in payroll tax and corporation tax proposed by Sunak, at a cost of over 30 billion pounds ($36 billion) a year, to be funded by a slower reduction in government debt built up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

” We have to be truthful, borrowing one’s way out of inflation isn’t an option, it’s just a fairytale,” Sunak said to Truss.

Truss stated that tax increases would hurt business investment at the same time as economic weakness.

” You cannot tax your grace, she stated.

Voter Polls show that the Conservatives trail the Labour Party in votes.

” I’m aware that my party picks a leader but you will be watching as we choose your next prime minister…. I hope at least one of you likes us,” Mordaunt said to television viewers.

Tugendhat received applause from studio audiences for clearly distancing him from Johnson–shaking his head when asked whether he believed Johnson–while Badenoch claimed that her rival had avoided difficult decisions by not serving in Johnson’s government.

(L-R) Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, and Tom Tugendhat at Here East studios in Stratford, east London, before the live television debate for the candidates for leadership of the Conservative Party, hosted by Channel 4, on July 15, 2022. (Victoria Jones/PA)

Down to Two By July 21

Sunak, whose decision to quit the Treasury last week helped trigger a cascade of ministerial resignations that brought down Johnson, remains the favorite among his 358 Conservative parliamentary colleagues.

But Truss’ lead is very slim over Mordaunt and Truss, and they could both overtake Truss depending on who the lawmakers who supported other candidates decide to vote for. As the competitors fight for their lives, the battle is becoming more hostile.

On Thursday Attorney General Suella Braverman lost the race. She has now backed Truss and has been endorsed by David Frost, who helped negotiate Britain’s departure from the European Union.

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The Times newspaper reported Johnson was asking defeated leaders to support “anyone except Rishi”.

Meanwhile Mordaunt is a lesser-known person who has been the favorite of bookmakers and faces increasing criticisms from rival camps. Frost said she wasn’t tough enough with the EU which was a major issue for many Conservatives.

Both Truss, Badenoch also criticised Mordaunt’s stance regarding transgender issues.

Ballots of lawmakers will resume on Monday with the candidate with the fewest votes eliminated each time until a final two are chosen by July 21.

The new leader will then be selected by the country’s 200,000 Conservative Party members, and will be announced on Sept. 5.

($1=0. 8430 pound)

By Michael Holden and David Milliken

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