Voting set to begin in race to become UK prime minister

Britain's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arriving to attend the weekly Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street and Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak leaving the 11 Downing Street. (Photo: AFP)

Monday sees the mailing of ballots to Conservative party members, intensifying the battle between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss to become the next prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Foreign Secretary Truss is the odds-on favorite to replace Boris Johnson, according to bookies, who put her ahead of former finance minister Sunak.

The pair has already spent two weeks on the campaign trail they have often battled, especially about their economic policies.

Truss has pledged to reduce taxes to stimulate the sputtering British economy and alleviate the burden of spiraling costs.

Sunak, who guided the United Kingdom's economy during the pandemic, described Truss' plans as "fantasy economics" that would fuel inflation and place more strain on public finances still recovering from the pandemic.

Sunak executed a big U-turn last week by announcing a plan to eliminate the value-added tax (VAT) on energy bills, as he trailed in polls among the crucial party members.

And on Sunday, he pledged to reduce the introductory income tax rate by 20% by the conclusion of the next parliament, which would be no later than December 2029.

He pledged to grassroots Tories over the weekend that he would halt "woke nonsense" and "brainwashing" if he is elected prime minister but added that he had "zero interest in fighting a so-called culture war."

The 42-year-old outlined plans to revitalize the nation's failing town centers.

"I intend to reduce the number of vacant stores by 2025 and transform them into thriving community assets," he stated.

"I will also crack down on antisocial conduct, vandalism, and littering by expanding police authority and increasing fines."

Dirty Tricks

Thursday marked the first of twelve national gatherings before the September 5 announcement of Johnson's replacement.

Truss earned a boost on Friday when Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, well-respected among party members for handling the Ukraine issue, endorsed her, stating that she was the "only candidate with the required breadth and depth of experience."

Her tax promises also helped her get the backing of former leadership candidate Tom Tugendhat, who has considerable influence among the party's moderates.

Despite the high-profile endorsements, Truss emphasized that the contest was "extremely close."

Sunak, whose departure from Johnson's scandal-plagued cabinet was instrumental in bringing about the prime minister's demise, has acknowledged that he is the "underdog" in the competition.

The two televised head-to-head debates between the candidates have been acrimonious, and the race has frequently been personal.

The wealthy former financier Sunak retaliated against the Truss camp's scathing comments on his pricey taste in dress, which allegedly demonstrate that he is out of touch with the general populace during a recession.

"This has nothing to do with my shoes or suit.

Sunak told members, amid cheers, "This is about what I'm going to do for the country," while one questioner accused him of "stab[bing] Boris Johnson in the back."

In addition to complaining of dirty tricks, Sunak's team has demanded "full and proper investigations" into the "continued and deliberate leaking of government documents" that have plagued his run for the presidency.

Truss was reminded on the campaign trail of her 2016 opposition to Brexit and her student leadership of the Liberal Democrats at the University of Oxford, during which she advocated for the removal of the monarchy.

"I almost immediately regretted my (monarchy) speech," she added. I was a bit of a contentious teenager.

Publish : 2022-08-01 08:08:00

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