This is a long, hot summer in Britain, and 150,000 people are choosing our next prime minister Between Liz Truss & Rishi Sunak
They will spend the summer appealing to the only people with a vote—Conservative Party members, who will register their choice by mail or online—before the result is announced on 5th September. How many of these powerful electors are there? The most common estimate is 150,000, equivalent to 0.2 percent of the British population, but no one outside the party knows for sure because the Tories won’t give out complex numbers on the size of their membership. The votes of 1 million people could decide the next prime minister.
In debate, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, criticizing how the current government has handled the country, have gone viral
Despite being senior ministers under Boris Johnson for a significant portion of his premiership, the two leadership hopefuls slated the state the UK is currently in during the first 30 minutes of Tuesday’s debate. For context, Truss is still part of this government. She has been the women and equality minister since September 2019 and held the role of international trade secretary from the same period until Johnson appointed her as foreign secretary in September last year.
Sunak was chancellor of the Exchequer until three weeks ago, when he dramatically quit, triggering a mass exodus of Tory MPs from the government and forcing Johnson to resign. But even before he was promoted to the top job, he had worked as the chief secretary to the Treasury since 2019.
Sunak pointed out that “energy bills are doubling” and “inflation is at a 40-year-high” – despite having a senior role in the Treasury’s policy-making for three years. Sunak also said: “Millions of families across the country are grappling with rising bills, food, filling up your car, and everything else.”
Liz Truss supporters accused Rishi Sunak of a massive U-turn after he pledged to remove VAT from energy bills if he becomes prime minister.
The dramatic change of tack came despite him dismissing tax cut promises by rival Tory leadership candidates as “fairytales”. He said that under his plan to scrap VAT for a year, the average household would save £160. “Tackling inflation and getting people the support they need to help with the cost of living is critical,” the former chancellor said.
But former ministerial colleagues of Sunak who are backing Truss’s bid to become PM wasted no time mocking the VAT cut, despite him previously rejecting the idea when he was chancellor. Simon Clarke, who worked under Sunak as chief secretary to the Treasury, echoed a famous Margaret Thatcher soundbite. And business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News: “I’m delighted that Rishi Sunak has come late to the party and realized tax cuts are a good idea; they’re not a fairytale. “Being a grown-up means that you can have tax cuts. I’m delighted to see that he’s come round to that view. It’s a U-turn. Let’s not beat about the bush; this is a U-turn.” He said
So far, every poll of Conservative members puts Truss ahead of Sunak
Sunak quit Boris Johnson’s government, helping to bring it down, while Truss kept the faith. Maybe Conservative members value loyalty. Sunak won’t promise immediate tax cuts to voters struggling with rising prices and energy bills; Truss wants at least £30 billion. Maybe Conservative members think lower taxes are the best route to economic growth and reject Sunak’s argument that true conservatism means discipline and prudence. Sunak went to an expensive private boarding school, and Truss attended a state-funded school. Maybe Conservatives dislike privilege—but then again, Sunak’s parents were immigrants to Britain, and both candidates attended Oxford University.
When Truss rated Johnson’s time in office “seven out of 10,” the audience barely stirred
When Sunak was asked the same question, he first equivocated on Johnson’s broader record and was greeted by silence. Then he declared, “Actually, in delivering a solution to Brexit and winning an election, that’s a 10 out of 10. You’ve got to give the guy credit for that. No one else could have done that.” There for, actually, they confirm most of Johnson’s decisions and probably will continue the same way.
A poll by Opinium found that a random sample of voters declared the debate to be a draw and that Sunak had a slight lead on the question of who would make the better prime minister.
But among Conservative voters, the winner was clear: Liz Truss. On the British right, just like in America, a born-again believer is more appealing than the avatar of elite consensus, the credentialed insider, the man saying he’s from the government and he’s here to help.
The Conservative Party isn’t looking for someone to steer the economy carefully.
He is saying everything a Conservative prime minister, such as David Cameron, would say: we need to tighten our belts to pay down our Covid debt. We need to balance our budget and fight inflation, first and foremost. I disagree with him, but this is what I expect a traditional Conservative to say. And it was evident at the BBC debate that he had a far better grasp of economic issues than Liz Truss.
The Conservative Party isn’t looking for a boring Indian accountant; they are looking for a culture warrior willing to fight on other fronts.
And that’s where Sunak is floundering. His hurried plan to tackle immigration came too late and was not believable enough. This is a problem for the country since we will soon have a prime minister more focused on stopping asylum seekers from coming here than dealing with the cost of living. Truss may even make Britain’s economic crisis, mainly if she follows through with her plan of cutting taxes.
“I suspect the contest winner will be the candidate who best captures the Badenochian vibe – and convinces Conservative activists that they will make Britain a more conservative country if elected.”
For the anticipation of the future PM, we must look at the previous condition that led to the resignation of Boris Johnson.
The trouble started with ‘partygate,’ but it didn’t end there. A series of sexual misconduct scandals among Conservative lawmakers further damaged Mr Johnson. On the evening of July 5, two of Mr Johnson’s top ministers — Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the Exchequer, and Sajid Javid, the health secretary — resigned within minutes. More decisively, a flood of further resignations followed, with more than 50 members of Parliament quitting cabinet roles or other government positions by July 7, including some appointed to replace those who had already resigned.
Mr Sunak and his opponent, Liz Truss, are competing to wrap themselves in the mantle of Thatcher, who was prime minister from 1979 to 1990
Each is casting themselves as the true heir to her free-market, low-tax, deregulatory revolution at home and her robust defence of Western democracy abroad. “We must be radical,” declared Mr Sunak. He, like Ms Truss, served in the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and is responsible for some of the economic policies he now proposes to sweep away. The agenda Mr Sunak is championing, he told the party faithful, was “common-sense Thatcherism.”
It is much simpler to channel Thatcher, as Ms Truss does, in a stylistic way. As foreign secretary, Ms Truss appears to have modelled her appearances on the international stage closely on the Iron Lady, copying famous images, including one of Thatcher at the turret of a tank in West Germany. She has even worn a silk pussy-bow blouse, a familiar feature of the Thatcher wardrobe.
Truss and Sunak served as top ministers in Johnson’s government. However, both said Britain now needed bold ideas and “radical reform” and a new direction and may use each other in their administration. While Boris Johnson idolised Churchill, The UK’s next leader may look to Thatcher.