The Indian diaspora in UK is largely supportive of Sunak, however, as Chancellor it is not obvious if Sunak has done much to improve UK-India relations. Liz Truss has visited India numerous times.
The two leadership candidates have much in common: both went to Oxford, both read philosophy-politics and economics, both have two daughters, both are in their 40s, both are Conservatives campaigning on their conservative values and their integrity, both are committed to 2050 Net Zero and the Rwanda illegal migrant policy, both want to reward hard work. They both claim to be the leader who can defeat Keir Starmer and the Labour Party at the next general election, which would give the Conservatives an historic fifth term in power.
The important difference between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak is their approach to the economy, reducing the cost of living and the provision of public services. Polls indicate than Liz Truss has an unassailable lead, Truss is advocating business, corporation and income tax cuts and increased borrowing. Truss is rejecting what she calls Whitehall orthodoxy and groupthink, she wants to shake up the Treasury, introduce incentives, and dissolve EU bureaucracy around pension funds. But Sunak claims her economic plan will make the situation worse, he wants to take a longer term view, service the public debt and balance the books. He explains that the National Insurance Levy is designed to tackle the NHS Covid backlog. He wants to get a grip on inflation, grow the economy and then cut taxes. Sunak would revive a Department of Energy and add an Energy Security Committee, with a view to make UK energy self-sufficient by 2045.
To complicate campaigning issues on Thursday, the Bank of England (BoE) has increased interest rates to 1.75% to bring rising inflation down; this is a 40-year high. The rate of inflation is currently 9.4% and tipped to hit nearly 14% by next year; energy prices have doubled as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The BoE hopes to achieve its inflation target of 2% in by 2024, the year of the next general election.
This week your reporter has attended a hustings for each Tory Leadership candidate. Rishi Sunak wowed a select audience of west country Tory voters and Conservative members, supported by 5 MPs, Mark Harper, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Alex Chalk, Richard Graham and James Gray, and DEFRA Secretary of State George Eustice. Sunak stood on a hay wagon in the midst of the harvest, in his shirt sleeves and as is typical, he began with a joke. He presented his vision for a better future, stating his values as family, hard work, education and patriotism. Sunak focused on trust, unity and honesty within the party, playing to his audience, he said he would respect farmers and food security, get a grip on inflation without unlimited borrowing, cutting income tax and red tape in all sectors; he promised radicalism in government. After his presentation, he mingled engagingly with the crowd, responding to questions. This reporter asked him how he would revive the picturesque market towns all over England that have been debilitating since the lockdowns. He replied and he would prioritise reforms to boost local government and ensure funding for deprived communities. Sunak has charisma, he is persuasive, as proven on the Sky News debate on Thursday night when 80% of the audience voted in his favour.
Your reporter was in the audience for Liz Truss’ pitch in a south west market town, one of her many hustings that day; Truss performed on a raised stage in the Cornhall, an old indoor market, flanked by three MPs, Danny Kruger, Michelle Donnellan and James Gray (who supports Sunak, but says that Truss is also an excellent candidate). This event was more formal with a larger audience. Truss was in a black cocktail dress, and has vastly improved her presentation skills; her delivery is much more fluent and in many cases more detailed about policy. She also has some standard jokes that never fail to raise at least a smile. Truss delivered her leadership pitch about keeping corporation and personal taxes low, getting infrastructure projects finished quicker, getting more people into home ownership and keeping the NHS free at point of use. A series of challenging questions from the audience followed, a very broad spectrum of informed questions about HMRC’s cap on pensions affecting consultants in the NHS which is making them retire early, causing a shortage. Truss wants to see the country fields full of livestock, not solar panels. On a question whether a Kissinger approach to Ukraine was possible, Truss answered only the Ukrainians could decide that, but she spoke to Dmytro Kuleba all the time and she would increase defence spending to 3% as it was essential that Russia was defeated; a female Ukrainian refugee in the audience stood up and thanked Truss and UK for all the support. A lengthy Q&A followed about non-stunned slaughter of farm animals, biological sex vs self-identification gender, funding of lobby groups, the Northern Ireland Protocol. Truss had to defend her recent trade deals with New Zealand and Australia about why they benefited British farmers, and defend her loyalty to Boris Johnson. Truss had an impressive response to each and every challenge and seemed to satisfy each questioner.
Truss has the support of many Cabinet ministers—Sajid Javid, Ben Wallace, Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Nadim Zahawi, other leadership hopefuls Penny Mordaunt and Tom Tugendhat, plus many other influential MPs such as Iain Duncan Smith and Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Sunak has the backing of recent government officials Dominic Raab, Oliver Dowden, Grant Schapps, Robert Buckland, Steve Barclay, and MPs Jeremy Hunt, David Davis, and peers Lord William Hague, Lord Norman Lamont and leader of the House of Commons, Mark Spencer. The Indian diaspora in UK is largely supportive of Sunak on the basis of his ethnicity, however, as Chancellor it is not obvious if Sunak has done much to improve UK-India relations, whereas Liz Truss has visited India numerous times during her tenures as Foreign Secretary and Trade Secretary.
The ballots were delayed because it was discovered they were in jeopardy of cyber manipulation due to the option for members to change their vote, post voting. Ballots are now due to land with members and the change option has been withdrawn; it is 26 days until members have to get their vote in. There is still time to decide who has what it takes to lead the Conservative Party into the next general election.