On Friday, in the first of three televised debates between the five remaining candidates for British prime minister, former finance minister Rishi Sunak and British foreign minister Liz Truss argued about tax policy.
After two days of voting by lawmakers from the ruling Conservative Party, the 11 candidates who were originally in the running have been cut down to five.
Sunak won those two votes, but he faces tough competition from Truss, who has the support of several powerful people, and Penny Mordaunt, who, according to polls, is the most popular candidate among the party members who will choose the winner.
Kemi Badenoch, a former minister for equalities, and Tom Tugendhat, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament, are also still in the running, but Conservative lawmakers support them less than the other candidates.
A quick poll of the British public done by the market research company Opinium found that 36% of viewers thought Tugendhat was the best performer on the show. After Mordaunt and Badenoch, who both got 12 percent, Sunak got 24 percent, and Truss got only 7 percent.
Whoever gets the job will have to deal with high inflation, slow economic growth, and the public’s lack of faith in politics after Boris Johnson’s scandal-filled time in office.
In the debate, which was led by Channel 4, Sunak and Truss argued about how to handle the economy. Truss has suggested getting rid of Sunak’s plans to raise the payroll tax and company tax, which would cost about $36 billion a year. This would be paid for by putting off paying down the debt that was built up during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Sunak said to Truss, “We have to be honest: borrowing your way out of inflation is not a plan, it’s a fairy tale.
Truss said that if taxes went up, companies would be less likely to invest when the economy was already in trouble. She said, “You can’t pay your way to grace by being mean.”
The Times newspaper says that Johnson, who quit as leader of the ruling Conservative Party on July 7, has been telling unsuccessful candidates for the job not to support former chancellor Sunak, who is largely to blame for Johnson’s falling popularity among his own party members.
“The whole No. 10 (Downing Street) team doesn’t like Rishi. It’s about you. It has poison. They don’t blame Saj (Sajid Javid) for his fall. Rishi is blamed. A source told the newspaper that they think he planned this for months.
Before the third round of voting on Monday, when Conservative MPs will further narrow the field by getting rid of the candidate with the fewest votes until only two are left, all five candidates will have a TV debate on Sunday.