Truss launches Tory leadership bid with pledge to cut taxes 'from day one'

11 July 2022, 09:40 | Updated: 12 July 2022, 10:23

Liz Truss will face Nadhim Zahawi and Rishi Sunak in a race for the Tory leadership
Liz Truss will face Nadhim Zahawi and Rishi Sunak in a race for the Tory leadership. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has launched her campaign for the Conservative Party leadership, with a promise for "low taxes" and a "firm grip on spending".

In a video posted to Twitter with the tagline "Trusted to deliver", she said a prime minister with "experience, who can hit the ground running from day one" is needed.

In an article for the Telegraph, she added: “Under my leadership, I would start cutting taxes from day one to take immediate action to help people deal with the cost of living.”

She highlighted her work on trade deals with Australia and Japan, and on the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol Bill as among her credentials.

Ms Truss changed her Twitter name to “Liz for leader,” writing: “I have a clear vision for our country and economy - and the experience and resolve to deliver it.”

Internet records shared online show she launched her website two days after the confidence vote against Boris Johnson, which he narrowly survived.

A number of Tories have so far put themselves forward to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, just days after a collapse in party support forced his resignation.

Former health secretaries Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid have both pledged to slash corporation tax as they announced separate bids for the Tory leadership.

It comes after two serving Cabinet ministers, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, revealed their intention to run for the top job in the space of an hour.

Liz Truss released her campaign video today
Liz Truss released her campaign video today. Picture: Twitter

Declaring their candidacies in The Telegraph, Mr Hunt and Mr Javid both said they would not only scrap the former chancellor's plans to raise corporation tax from 19% to 25% in April, but reduce the rate to 15%.

Mr Hunt also attempted to differentiate himself from the crowded field with a pitch based on his decision to stay on the backbench while Mr Johnson was at the helm of the Government.

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Mr Zahawi, Rishi Sunak's successor, had said earlier this week that "everything is on the table" when questioned over the corporation tax rise.

The leadership contenders' timescales for the change are different, with Mr Hunt slashing the tax to 15p in his first autumn Budget, while Mr Javid would set a "glide path".

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Mr Javid also said he would scrap the Government's controversial national insurance hike, bring forward the planned 1p income tax cut to next year, and introduce a further "significant" temporary reduction on fuel duty.

The pair spelled out their economic plans in separate interviews with the newspaper.

In addition to cutting corporation tax, Mr Hunt said he would remove business rates for five years for the communities most in need.

Most of those areas are in the so-called "Red Wall" of traditional Labour heartlands, the newspaper said, with a quarter of locations in England and Wales in line for the tax break.

Scotland and Northern Ireland would get money to match the policy.

"What matters is wealth creation, which means that people don't feel that they need to leave a Bolton or a Bolsover because they can get better jobs in Manchester or London. They can actually stay there," Mr Hunt said.

"That means helping them have opportunities at home that makes talented people want to stay, not go."

Meanwhile, he pledged to continue pushing legislation to overwrite parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol through Parliament.

Mr Javid said his plan for the economy would cover both short-term measures - including a new package of support worth up to £5 billion to help with energy bills - and a "longer-term" vision for tax reform.

He said: "The Government can't prevent the impact of high price rises on everyone. You can't mitigate everything.

"The long way out of this, the better way, is to turbo growth. I've always believed in free markets, in low taxation, in light regulation, as the conditions that are necessary for growth.

"It was true 20 to 30 years ago, it was true under Margaret Thatcher, and it's true now, because it's how economies grow and how they work."

Earlier, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that after "careful consideration" and discussion with colleagues and family, he would not stand to be party leader and the next prime minister.

In addition to Mr Hunt, Mr Javid, Mr Zahawi, Mr Shapps and Mr Sunak, Attorney General Suella Braverman, ex-minister Kemi Badenoch and senior Tory Tom Tugendhat have launched their own bids.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is also widely expected to stand, with the Mail on Sunday reporting she will seek to advocate "classic Conservative principles", and could declare her candidature as soon as Monday.

Another potential front-runner is trade minister Penny Mordaunt.

Ms Mordaunt has heavily suggested she will throw her hat in the ring, sharing an article on Saturday night from Dr Gerard Lyons, Mr Johnson's former chief economic adviser as London mayor, which states she would make a "great prime minister".

She also pushed back against those who may want to depict her as "woke" in a Twitter thread early on Sunday morning, as she sought to clarify how she would define a woman.

It was reported on Saturday that Mr Johnson intends to stand down as Prime Minister on Monday in order to run again for Tory leader.

But this suggestion was knocked down by a spokesperson for Mr Johnson as completely untrue.

Tory MP Mark Francois has said he believes at least 12 people will put their names forward.

Launching his campaign, Mr Zahawi pledged to lower taxes for individuals, families and business, boost defence spending, and continue with education reforms that he started in his previous role.

Mr Shapps said he wants to rebuild the economy so it is the biggest in Europe by 2050, and address the cost-of-living crisis.

Ms Badenoch announced a plan for a smaller state and a Government "focused on the essentials".

Mr Sunak launched his leadership bid with the message: "Let's restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country."

Former minister Steve Baker has thrown his support behind Ms Braverman's campaign, despite previously saying he was seriously considering putting himself forward for the top job.

The Attorney General has pledged to "move heaven and earth to get this country back on track", writing in The Telegraph on Saturday that her views on Brexit are "as much a part of me as my DNA", and advocating a reduction to planned tax hikes "that are putting off investment".

As candidates have started to make their move, Tory MP Sir Charles Walker said it is incumbent on those running for leader that they "don't knock lumps out of each other".

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Tory leadership contest: Who are the contenders?

  • Rishi Sunak

In a slick campaign video launched on Friday, Mr Sunak announced his leadership bid with the message: "Let's restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country."

One of the main front-runners, attracting odds of 4/1 with several bookmakers, the former chancellor's rise from relative obscurity to household name came as he turned on the spending taps to protect jobs through the furlough scheme when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

His calm and measured delivery during televised Covid briefings, and his viral declaration of love for a popular soft drink, will have endeared him to those perhaps not always plugged in to the political goings-on, as well as his resignation on matters of principle on Tuesday.

However his stock has taken a tumble recently following disclosures that his wife had non-dom status for tax purposes and he held on to his US green card while serving in Government.

Supporters will hope his latest £21 billion support package will finally put to bed criticism about the response to the cost of living crisis.

  • Penny Mordaunt

Ms Mordaunt's campaign got off to an awkward start on Sunday with her launch video hastily edited to remove several identifiable figures including athlete Jonnie Peacock.

The Paralympian requested footage of him featured in the clip be removed, with Ms Mordaunt, who remains among the early favourites, posting an amended version hours later.

Announcing her bid, the international trade minister said the UK's leadership "needs to become a little less about the leader and a lot more about the ship".

Ms Mordaunt was Mr Wallace's predecessor as defence secretary, and the first woman to hold the post before being sacked by Mr Johnson shortly after he became Prime Minister in 2019.

The trade minister has many strings to her bow as a Royal Navy reservist and former reality TV contestant, having appeared on the Tom Daley-fronted diving show Splash.

She played a prominent role in the Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum, and enjoys the backing of Dame Andrea Leadsom and Michael Fabricant.

  • Liz Truss

The Foreign Secretary kept her powder dry as the Tory top brass turned on the mortally wounded Prime Minister, despite being a Johnson loyalist, though she did cut short a foreign trip to Indonesia to head back to Westminster as he announced his resignation.

But she confirmed long-standing expectations that she would throw her hat into the already crowded ring on Sunday, pledging to reverse the national insurance hike.

Writing in The Telegraph, Ms Truss, who has been cultivating support among Tory MPs and enjoys the backing of Julian Knight, Jackie-Doyle Price and Chloe Smith, said she could be "trusted to deliver".

Social media aficionado Ms Truss has made little secret of her leadership ambitions, with a series of high-profile interventions and photo opportunities in which she appeared to be channelling late PM Margaret Thatcher.

She has the experience of working across many Whitehall departments, while her hard line on Ukraine, insisting Russian forces must be driven from the country, and threats to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol with the EU play well with sections of the party.

  • Sajid Javid

Mr Javid formally declared his bid in The Sunday Telegraph after his and Mr Sunak's double-resignation effectively kickstarted the slew of departures from government, hastening Mr Johnson's demise.

State school-educated Mr Javid, known as "The Saj" in some circles, is the son of a bus driver who arrived in England from Pakistan in the 1960s, and held ministerial roles in housing, business and culture before becoming chancellor, and then health secretary in the middle of the pandemic.

Mr Javid, who supported Remain in 2016, made it to the final four in the contest to replace Theresa May as Tory leader in 2019, but dropped out and subsequently endorsed Mr Johnson.

He has said he would not only scrap the former chancellor's plans to raise corporation tax from 19% to 25% in April, but reduce the rate to 15%.

The Bromsgrove MP also pledged to scrap the Government's controversial national insurance hike, bring forward the planned 1p income tax cut to next year, and introduce a further "significant" temporary reduction on fuel duty.

  • Grant Shapps

The Transport Secretary, a Johnson loyalist, set up his stall in The Sunday Times by vowing to end "tactical government by an often-distracted centre".

Without personally criticising the Prime Minister, he suggested his own leadership would bring a return to a more traditionally Conservative approach to state, pledging to curb taxes.

With his local grammar school education and rock-star relative who played guitar for The Clash, Mr Shapps has a slightly different background to some of his Tory contemporaries.

The 53-year-old, who has three children and is Welwyn Hatfield MP, said tackling the cost-of-living crisis and strengthening the economy to become the biggest in Europe are top of his agenda.

  • Nadhim Zahawi

Mr Zahawi's bid, also announced in The Sunday Times, is rooted in lower taxes and a "great education" for all, promising to "steady the ship" and "stabilise the economy".

He also appeared to suggest a hard-line stance on so-called culture war issues, claiming he would protect children from what he claimed was "damaging and inappropriate nonsense from radical activists".

The newly appointed Chancellor argued Britons must be trusted "to do what is best for themselves", as he warned the country had lost a sense of "boundless optimism and opportunity" that he traced back to Margaret Thatcher's tenure.

An outside bet among the bookies, the Iraqi-born former education secretary was a successful businessman and came to wider prominence as vaccines minister during the pandemic.

  • Tom Tugendhat

Not a household name, but among the early contenders.

The multi-lingual chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee became the first to announce his intention to stand for leader should Mr Johnson be turfed out, with his declaration made in January, a position he repeated in Friday's Daily Telegraph, saying he was putting together a "broad coalition" offering a "clean start".

His odds shortened almost immediately as a result.

The former soldier wrote in the paper: "I have served before, in the military, and now in Parliament. Now I hope to answer the call once again as prime minister."

A Remainer in 2016, he has been a trenchant critic of Mr Johnson, a stance that would appear to have cost him any chance of ministerial preferment under the current leadership.

  • Suella Braverman

The Attorney General launched an unlikely leadership bid as support for Mr Johnson crumbled around him on Wednesday night.

But a surprise endorsement from prominent Brexiteer Steve Baker, who had earlier said he was considering running, has lent weight to her standing.

Ms Braverman, who was first elected as an MP in 2015, is regarded as something of an outlier for the top job.

A Suella Braverman for PM Twitter account has nonetheless sprung up, with Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne being the first to tweet his support for her bid.

  • Jeremy Hunt

Mr Hunt confirmed his widely anticipated leadership bid in The Sunday Telegraph, making similar tax-cutting pledges to fellow ex-health secretary Mr Javid.

The foreign secretary, whose Remainer background may have been part of what ruled him out of the running in 2019, has been a persistent critic of Mr Johnson.

Seen by some as a bit of a Thatcher reboot, Mr Hunt might appeal to those who want a sensible choice of leader after months of instability.

As chairman of the Commons Health Committee, he has used his position to make a number of critical interventions on the Government's handling of the pandemic, although his strong support for lockdown measures will not have pleased all Tory MPs.

  • Kemi Badenoch

Former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch threw her hat into the ring with a plan for a smaller state and a government "focused on the essentials".

The MP for Saffron Walden said she supported lower taxes "to boost growth and productivity, and accompanied by tight spending discipline".

Writing in The Times, the 42-year-old former banker, who grew up in the UK, US and Nigeria, also hit out at "identity politics" and said Boris Johnson was "a symptom of the problems we face, not the cause of them".

Ms Badenoch may be considered an outsider for the leadership given the Tory grandees already in the running, but her profile was boosted by an endorsement from Michael Gove on Sunday.

  • Rehman Chishti

The newly appointed Foreign Office minister made an even unlikelier bid for the Tory leadership on Sunday evening in a video posted on Facebook.

Mr Chishti said the right candidate would have "a proven track record of coming to the table with ideas and creativity to help improve people's lives".

The MP for Gillingham and Rainham has an unusual political background, having previously stood as a Labour candidate in the 2005 general election before defecting to the Conservatives in 2007.

In 2020 he resigned as Mr Johnson's special envoy for freedom of religion over the Government's stance on the Northern Ireland protocol.

The former barrister said at the time clauses in the UK Internal Markets Bill "unilaterally break (the) UK's legal commitments".