The chances of the head of the British Foreign Office to become the next prime minister are growing The first televised debate of contenders for British Prime Ministers Liz Truss and Rishi Sunaka confirmed the leadership of the first. They argued about taxes, China policy and fashion, but agreed on Ukraine
Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak
The fight for the post of head of the Conservative Party of Great Britain and the next prime minister of the country reached a new level on Monday: two applicants, former finance minister Rishi Sunak and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, met for the first time in a prime-time televised debate on the country's most popular channel BBC1 .
How the fight for the premiership is developing
The foreign secretary started the race from the position of the middle peasant: British bookmakers initially predicted the victory of Sunak and the junior minister for trade relations, Penny Mordaunt. However, as the campaign developed, Truss not only managed to overtake Mordaunt, but also left the ex-minister of finance far behind. Before the start of the debate, according to a YouGov poll, 53% of members of the conservative party supported Truss, while only 36% were ready to vote for Sunak (with a high proportion of undecided – 9%). Thus, the outcome of the televised debate is critically important for Sunak, because only a little more than a week is left before the elections: on August 5, about 175 thousand Tories will receive ballots, and a month later the name of the new prime minister will be announced.
According to Sunak's supporters, the televised debate gave him a real chance to change the situation in his favor. He is known for his oratorical skills and performed well during the debate with the participation of all the contenders to succeed Boris Johnson. Some conservatives even called him a winner at the time: one unnamed Tory told Politico that Sunak “was head and shoulders above everyone else”; and that a face-to-face meeting with Truss would be a “tipping point”; in the race.
Truss supporters, in contrast, tried to downplay the face-to-face meeting due to fear that she would succumb to Sunaka or make a faux pas. Thus, the Assistant Foreign Minister called the upcoming series of debates (after airing on BBC1, the prime ministerial candidates will meet on Talk TV and Sky News) a chance for the media to “sit down and talk about themselves.” At the same time, according to Politico, the Truss headquarters did a great job of preparing for the broadcast. One of the consultants even played the part of Sunak in practice Q&A sessions. Samaje Truss admitted in an interview with The Daily Telegraph that oratory— not her strongest point. She also recalled this during the live broadcast.
What the candidates argued about
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At the same time, it was about the idea of Truss to reduce taxes against the backdrop of an increase in the cost of living due to the coronavirus pandemic and the situation around Ukraine. Sunak tried to take the issue out of the political plane and appeal to morality, calling the competitor's proposal irresponsible and immoral. He compared Truss's idea to using a credit card that would have to be repaid by the next generation of Britons. “You promised almost £40bn in unsecured tax cuts, another £40bn in loans. This is a country credit card. Our children and grandchildren will have to pay for this,— he repeated several times. Truss unsuccessfully tried to answer Sunak several times, and when she finally managed to speak out, she explained that the coronavirus pandemic— it is a once-in-a-century event, and the measures she has proposed are temporary. Truss also reproached Sunak himself for being the only country under him to decide to raise taxes despite the pandemic.
Another topic that caused stormy emotions was the issue of relations with China. Truss said that London should not make the same mistake in relation to Beijing that has already been made in relations with Moscow, & mdash; you need to take a tough stance. Sunak, in response, recalled to her the words about the “golden age” British-Chinese relations. “That was said over a decade ago,” — the head of the Foreign Office confidently retorted and reminded Sunak of his desire to build economic relations with China when he was Minister of Finance.
As for Ukraine, both candidates declared their readiness to continue military-technical and material support of Kyiv, but refused to use the British fleet. The kingdom, in their opinion, should not become a direct participant in the conflict.
The moderators asked the debaters to rate Johnson's actions as prime minister on a ten-point scale. Truss remained his supporter to the last and did not leave the cabinet against the backdrop of a mass exodus of ministers. She tried to explain her loyalty by the obligation to perform the assigned work and noted that the charges against Johnson, in her opinion, were not enough for him to resign. However, she gave his reign only a seven, noting that there would be no place for him in her government because Johnson needed a rest. Sunak gave Johnson a perfect score for the way he handled Brexit, but stressed that they had serious disagreements. The fact that it was his resignation from the post of head of the Ministry of Finance that provoked the political crisis in the country, he ignored.
There were also personal attacks. On the eve of the debate, Truss' colleague Nadine Dorris accused Sunak of a craving for luxury, which was repeatedly noted by the British media. “Liz Truss will travel the country wearing her earrings, which cost about £4.50 from Claire Accessories. Meanwhile, Rishi visits Teesside wearing £450 Prada shoes and a £3500 tailored suit in preparation for a decisive leadership vote,— Dorris wrote on Twitter. Commenting on this post, Truss said that Sunak— “well-dressed man” and she can't give him “fashion advice.” At the same time, she added that she did not know how Dorris knew where she bought her earrings.
According to an Opinium poll conducted among a thousand viewers, Sunak defeated Truss by a symbolic margin of 1%: 39 to 38%. However, among the Conservatives, the situation is different: for them, Truss was the clear winner with 47% of the vote, while Sunak was far behind with 38%.
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