Sunak backs rival over Johnson while Truss stays loyal to outgoing boss


ishi Sunak has said he would back his rival for prime minister over Boris Johnson while Liz Truss shunned the former chancellor in favour of her outgoing boss as they squared up at the penultimate Tory leadership hustings.

The pair made now-familiar swipes at one another’s economic plans as they faced questions on a range of topics including spiralling energy bills, crime and Net Zero at the event in Norwich.

The former chancellor vowed not to pursue policies that “risk making inflation far worse and last far longer” – especially if they “amount to borrowing £50 billion and putting that on the country’s credit card”.

The Foreign Secretary, meanwhile, said raising corporation tax – something Mr Sunak announced as chancellor – would “stop economic growth and put this country into a recession”.

Both candidates were asked who would make a better prime minister out of their rival or outgoing leader Boris Johnson.

Mr Sunak said he would prefer Ms Truss, as he called for the country to “move forward”.

However, the Foreign Secretary said she would rather Mr Johnson had the top job, which drew loud applause and cheers from the audience.

In a quickfire round of questioning, Mr Sunak also said he would prefer to “take the stairs” than be stuck in a lift with either Sir Keir Starmer or Nicola Sturgeon.

But Ms Truss said she would pick Scotland’s First Minister in that scenario, as the idea of being trapped with the Labour leader was “extremely boring”.

Elsewhere, Mr Sunak took aim at “wokeish ideology”, pledging to tackle “lefty woke culture” and never let “political correctness” get in the way of people’s safety.

Asked if the BBC has a Tory or Labour bias, or if it is neutral, he said: “There’s no woke bias option in there.”

Ms Truss said anyone who believes the BBC is impartial is “kidding” themselves, adding that she prefers “honest bias” to the pretence of neutrality.

We are now less than 24 hours away from the energy price cap rising yet again, but we have heard no serious proposals from the Conservative leadership candidates on how to stop this national emergency

Earlier, Mr Sunak said he would vote for the tax-cutting plans put forward by Ms Truss, despite previously branding them a “moral failure”.

The former chancellor has used the contest to fiercely criticise his rival’s economic strategy, but appeared to relent by admitting that if defeated he would back an emergency budget put forward by Ms Truss.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme, he also said that he will not leave politics if, as expected, he is defeated in the Tory leadership contest in less than two weeks’ time.

During a visit to a factory near Norwich ahead of Thursday’s hustings, the Foreign Secretary hinted at further action down the line to ease the burden of mounting prices.

She told reporters that cutting taxes and boosting energy supply were the key to addressing the cost-of-living crunch.

She added that, if she is elected, her chancellor will look at “what else needs to be done” at a future budget.

As the Tory leadership contest begins to enter its final stages after a long summer of party in-fighting, calls are growing for urgent Government action to support households through what is predicted to be a difficult winter.

Rishi Sunak speaks during the hustings event (Joe Giddens/PA) / PA Wire

Supply issues linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are one reason behind rapidly rising power bills – with recent warnings suggesting the average amount UK households pay for their gas and electricity could reach £6,000 next year.

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, in an interview on Wednesday, insisted “nothing is off the table” when it comes to action on soaring energy bills, while also adding that a freeze in the price cap would not deliver “targeted help” for those who need it most.

Labour has called on both Tory leadership candidates to expand the windfall tax on oil and gas companies if they become prime minister, as the energy price cap is set to rise again.

Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband said it was “intolerable” that Mr Sunak and Ms Truss had not offered “serious proposals” to address the crisis.

His call for action comes as energy regulator Ofgem is set to announce the autumn price cap for energy bills on Friday.

“We are now less than 24 hours away from the energy price cap rising yet again, but we have heard no serious proposals from the Conservative leadership candidates on how to stop this national emergency,” Mr Miliband said.

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