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'All the evidence is Liz Truss would lose next election to Labour', Rishi Sunak tells LBC

21 July 2022, 18:32 | Updated: 21 July 2022, 21:20

By Daisy Stephens

Liz Truss will lose the next election to Labour if she wins the Tory leadership, Rishi Sunak has told LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr.

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The former Chancellor said he was the "best placed to defeat Keir Starmer" in a general election and that the current "evidence" suggested Labour would win if Liz Truss was at the helm.

His comments come despite him saying he wanted to avoid a so-called "blue on blue" fight with his competitor for the keys to No10.

"If you look at all the polling evidence that we have and you see what that says, it's pretty clear that I am the person that is best placed to defeat Keir Starmer in the next election," he told Andrew.

When Andrew asked if the Conservatives would be defeated at a general election if Liz Truss was prime minister, Mr Sunak said: "That's what all the evidence that we have today would show, and that's what our members will need to consider."

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When Andrew asked why he believed Ms Truss could not deliver an election victory for the Tories, Mr Sunak refused to be drawn into specific criticisms.

"What I'd rather do is just talk about what I can offer the country," he said.

"My pitch would be that people have seen me in this job for the last couple of years, that they know I've got the experience and the grip to handle some very difficult situations, they've seen me make sure that I help families get through some very tough times with things like the furlough scheme that we set up in a record amount of time and delivered successfully, and that should give people a glimpse of the kind of radical government that I can usher in that actually gets on and delivers the things that it says it will do."

When asked about the impact of borrowing £30b in order to make tax cuts - something Ms Truss has pledged to do - Mr Sunak said: "Most people recognise, because they have to plan their own household budgets… that we have to live within our means and that borrowing a lot, passing on a big bill to our kids and our grandkids, racking up bills on our credit card, just isn't a good thing.

"And that's just… a basic thing.

"Debt and borrowing is not a good thing, we should try and avoid it and we’d rather have less of it if we can."

He said Ms Truss' plan would have "inflationary" impacts.

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"We've got a situation where interest rates are already rising and inflation makes everybody poorer," he said.

"In that situation, my strong point of view is - if the government goes on a huge borrowing spree, that is only going to make the situation worse.

"And that will mean that this problem that we've got will last longer.

"If we don't get a grip on inflation now it will make families poorer in the long run and I want to avoid that at all costs."

Mr Sunak also reiterated that he voted to leave the EU, unlike Ms Truss who voted to remain - and told Andrew Brexit was now the thing enabling "radical change" for the UK.

"The big thing that we have at our disposal to help us think about things differently and to bring radical change is Brexit," he said, using the example of free ports - special economic zones that benefit from low taxes and specific customs arrangements to help with trade.

He told Andrew that, whilst the UK could have created them under the EU, they would have been "nowhere near as supportive".

Mr Sunak also told Andrew he remained a supporter of the government's controversial Rwanda policy, saying the UK needs to "have control of our borders".

Drawing on his own experiences, he said: "When my grandparents came here they came here because the British government had decided that it wanted them to come here.

"And it is absolutely right that we continue as a country to decide who we want to come here, and I think it's entirely reasonable that, at the same time as we welcome the best and the brightest which is what we now are doing... we get control of our borders."

He went on: "I think the Rwanda policy gives us the opportunity to solve that, but we now need to make it work, and one of my priorities will be to make that policy work properly so that we have proper control of our borders."

Mr Sunak also said "one of the first" things he would do as prime minister is appoint an independent ethics adviser - post that has been vacant since Lord Geidt dramatically resigned in June, accusing Boris Johnson of proposing a "deliberate" breach of the ministerial code.

He was the second ethics adviser to resign during Mr Johnson's tenure as Prime Minister.

"I definitely will reappoint an independent ethics adviser and it will be one of the first things I do," Mr Sunak told Andrew.

Asked if he would bring back Lord Geidt, he said he "probably" would because he thought he did a good job.

"I haven't spoken to him about it so I don't want to put him in an awkward position," he said.

Mr Sunak and Ms Truss are the final two candidates in the Tory leadership race, triggered when Boris Johnson announced he would resign earlier in the month.

Nadhim Zahawi, Jeremy Hunt, Suella Braverman, Kemi Badenoch, Tom Tugendhat and most recently Penny Mordaunt were all eliminated in a series of voting rounds by Tory MPs.

Mr Sunak and Ms Truss will face one another in a vote among Tory party members in September.

Read more: Jeremy Hunt backing Rishi Sunak in Tory leadership race 'really on character grounds'

Watch: Andrew Marr: 'There's a risk the Tory leadership contest could get very dirty'

Mr Sunak said on Thursday that he had "Thatcherite" values.

"I am running as a Thatcherite and I will govern as a Thatcherite," he wrote in the Telegraph.

"I am sure Liz Truss, who I like and respect, shares some of these values."

Ms Truss has also appeared to channel her inner Thatcher in a series of photo ops, although she denied it on Thursday.

Latest polling from YouGov suggested Ms Truss had extended her lead over Rishi Sunak by 24 points - up 20 from earlier in the week.

On Tuesday former cabinet minister David Davis told LBC the leadership race has been "the dirtiest campaign I've ever seen".

He said he had written to the cabinet secretary amid concerns over the "use of government resources in some respects", and added there was also "an inquiry into (International Trade Secretary) Anne-Marie Trevelyan's use of resources so there are a few inquiries under way".

"The truth is we are selecting the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, that ought to be done on rationality and democracy, not dirty tricks," he said.

Tory MPs are said to be concerned about how the contest is reflecting on the party, with the rivalries between candidates leading Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss to pull out of a Sky News debate on Monday.

The broadcaster said in a statement there were concerns about "the damage the debates are doing to the image of the Conservative party, exposing disagreements and splits within the party".