Tory leadership vote delayed by 'hacking fears'

3 August 2022, 00:20 | Updated: 3 August 2022, 00:31

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are facing off in the Tory leadership race
Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are facing off in the Tory leadership race. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

The Conservative leadership vote has been delayed because of fears that votes could be hacked, according to reports.

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Tory members have faced delays in voting for the UK's next Prime Minister, after GCHQ told the party that hackers could change who people chose.

Members were originally due to get their postal ballots this week, but could now get them as late as August 11, the Telegraph reported, while party officials beef up security measures.

Hacking fears have also forced the Conservatives to abandon plans to let members change who they are voting for later in the race.

No single country is thought to be raising a credible threat in hacking the election, and the advice from cyber security experts is reportedly more general.

Russia, China and Iran have all been accused of interfering in elections, including the US presidential vote in 2020.

Liz Truss debating at a Tory leadership hustings on Monday
Liz Truss debating at a Tory leadership hustings on Monday. Picture: Getty

A spokesman for the National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ, said: “Defending UK democratic and electoral processes is a priority for the NCSC, and we work closely with all parliamentary political parties, local authorities and MPs to provide cyber security guidance and support.

“As you would expect from the UK’s national cyber security authority, we provided advice to the Conservative Party on security considerations for online leadership voting.”

Rishi Sunak at the Tory party hustings this week
Rishi Sunak at the Tory party hustings this week. Picture: Getty

A Conservative party spokesperson said: "We have consulted with the NCSC throughout this process and have decided to enhance security around the ballot process. Eligible members will start receiving ballot packs this week."

Conservative members are choosing between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak as the UK's next Prime Minister. The winner will be announced on September 4.

Read more: Liz Truss widens Tory lead over Rishi Sunak amid U-turn over civil service pay cuts

Ms Truss is the clear frontrunner in the campaign, but came under fire on Tuesday for a pledge to cut public sector pay by £9bn after the idea was savaged by Rishi Sunak and Labour.

Rishi Sunak on the campaign trail last week
Rishi Sunak on the campaign trail last week. Picture: Getty

She rapidly U-turned on the plan, which aimed to save money on Government employees by introducing regional pay that could see staff who live in cheaper places than London and the South East paid less.

Sunak and Labour savaged the proposal, claiming it would slash pay for nurses, police and military personnel.

Read more: Liz Truss rapidly U-turns on £9bn public sector pay cut after rivals tear plans to shreds

A Truss campaign spokeswoman said: "Over the last few hours there has been a wilful misrepresentation of our campaign.

"Current levels of public sector pay will absolutely be maintained. Anything to suggest otherwise is simply wrong.

"Our hard-working frontline staff are the bedrock of society and there will be no proposal taken forward on regional pay boards for civil servants or public sector workers."

Liz Truss visiting a farm while campaigning on Monday
Liz Truss visiting a farm while campaigning on Monday. Picture: Getty

Despite the backlash her initial plans received, Ms Truss had reason to celebrate on Tuesday, as a YouGov poll of Conservative Party members showed her lead over rival Rishi Sunak has increased to 34 points.

The YouGov poll shows 60% of the party members polled between July 29 and August 2 say they intend to vote for Ms Truss, the Foreign Secretary, up from 49% in the period July 20 to 21, which was immediately after the final two were announced.

Meanwhile, support for the former chancellor has dropped in the poll, from 31% to 26%, over the same period.The rest of the Tory members polled say they are currently undecided or will not vote.

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