Clash of the Tories: Sunak and Truss spar over tax and Boris in brutal debate

25 July 2022, 23:30 | Updated: 26 July 2022, 06:21

The brutal debate saw Mr Sunak hit out at Ms Truss over tax plans
The brutal debate saw Mr Sunak hit out at Ms Truss over tax plans. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Rishi Sunak has hit out at Liz Truss over her plans for 'non-Conservative' tax cuts in a fierce leadership debate.

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The pair locked horns once again on Monday as they fought for the support of their party members, with taxes causing the biggest rift.

Mr Sunak told Ms Truss it was "not responsible", "immoral" and "not Conservative" to offer to cut taxes before dealing with inflation.

"You've promised almost £40billion of unfunded tax cuts... everyone here will have to pick up the tab for that," he argued.

It comes as the former Chancellor has suggested cuts cannot happen until autumn 2023 to avoid further inflation as Brits continue to struggle with the cost of living crisis.

Ms Truss hit back saying she would stop the national insurance rise from going ahead as it made no sense to raise taxes during an economic crisis.

She accused Mr Sunak of "scaremongering" with his comments.

Read more: Voters think Sunak would be better PM than Truss, new poll shows

Read more: Liz Truss calls for 'more action' from France as families face 11-hour queues in Dover

On when is the right time to cut taxes, Mr Sunak said: "Well look, we all took a decision to protect the economy and support the NHS through Covid, and of course we all knew there was a bill that we needed to pay for that, so the question is, should we pay that bill ourselves or do we put it on the country's credit card and pass the tab to our children and grandchildren to take care of.

"Now, I don't think that's right, I don't think it's responsible and it's certainly not Conservative and that's what I wouldn't do as prime minister."

Ms Truss said: "Under my plans, we would start paying back the debt in three years time, so I'm not putting it on the never never."

Mr Sunak interrupted saying "that's simply not right", adding: "You promised almost £40 billion of unfunded tax cuts...that is the country's credit card."

Ms Truss said: "Rishi that is not true, under my plans, we would start paying down the debts in three years time, Covid was a one in 100 years event, no other country is putting up taxes at this moment, the OECD has described Rishi's policies as contractionary."

In the intense blue-on-blue debate, Ms Truss and Mr Sunak also addressed their relationship with caretaker PM Boris Johnson.

Mr Sunak sought to stress his decision to quit Mr Johnson's government as a sign he acts according to his principles while Ms Truss stressed her loyalty to her current boss.

On whether he would have Mr Johnson in his Cabinet, Mr Sunak said: "The simple answer from me is no.

"I think we need to look forward at this point - that's why I want to be Prime Minister."

However, Mr Sunak added that he would give Mr Johnson 10 out of 10 for delivering Brexit and a Tory majority in 2019.

Meanwhile, Ms Truss only rated him seven out of 10 overall.

In a bid to distance herself from Mr Johnson's scandal-ridden premiership, she claimed the PM needed "a well-earned break" and that "what's done is done".

Ms Truss went on to say: "The party has made the decision - I have told you my views of that - I have now put myself forward as a candidate because I think I'm the right person to do the job and I don't believe that he would want further involvement."

A snap poll by Opinium, based on a sample of 1,032 voters, found 39% believed Mr Sunak had performed best compared to 38% for Ms Truss.
A snap poll by Opinium, based on a sample of 1,032 voters, found 39% believed Mr Sunak had performed best compared to 38% for Ms Truss. Picture: Getty

On connections with China, Ms Truss accused her rival of "pushing for closer trade relationships".

She said that as recently as a month ago he had been urging closer ties but was now calling for the opposite.

"I am glad you've come round to my way of thinking,' she added.

However, Mr Sunak said "Liz has been on a journey" to get to a point where she opposes closer ties.

Chinese-owned social media app TikTok also came under fire, with Ms Truss saying the UK must take a "tougher stance" on technology companies based in authoritarian countries.

Ms Truss hit back over tax cut plans
Ms Truss hit back over tax cut plans. Picture: Getty

The latest clash between the pair comes after a Tory peer suggested Boris Johnson "does not want to resign" and "wished that he could carry on" as Prime Minister.

Lord Cruddas of Shoreditch, a former Conservative Party treasurer, told the Telegraph that the comments were made to him by Mr Johnson over lunch at Chequers on Friday.

Lord Cruddas is running a campaign to give Conservative Party members a vote on whether to accept Mr Johnson's resignation as Tory leader.

He is believed to have said: "There was no ambiguity in Boris's views. He definitely does not want to resign. He wants to carry on and he believes that, with the membership behind him, he can."

The peer added: "Boris thanked me for my 'Boris on the ballot' campaign. He said he was enjoying following it and he wished me well. He said he could understand the membership's anger at what had happened. He said that he wished that he could carry on as Prime Minister. He said he does not want to resign."

The paper said Mr Johnson, when asked by the peer if he would "wipe away" his resignation immediately with "a magic wand", reportedly replied: "I would wipe away everything that stops me being PM in a second."

However, Downing Street has insisted Boris Johnson will step down once a new party leader is in place.

A spokeswoman, responding to comments from Lord Cruddas, said: "The Prime Minister has resigned as party leader and set out his intention to stand down as PM when the new leader is in place."

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