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Truss fights way back in Tory leader contest with BRUTAL slapdown of ‘posh school’ Rishi

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Truss fights way back in Tory leader contest with BRUTAL slapdown of ‘posh school’ Rishi

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LIZ TRUSS’S campaign had until tonight been running on empty and not been making any real headway with her colleagues but in tonight’s leadership debate the Foreign Secretary roared into contention as the experienced voice of the Conservative convert.

Rishi Sunak: Something for nothing is socialism

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In truth much of the hour-long debate on ITV was the Truss v [Rishi] Sunak show as the two clashed with each other on tax, background and what it actually means to be a Conservative. The other three candidates – Penny Mordaunt, Kemi Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat – were there but at key stretches were silent spectators as the two heavyweights from Boris Johnson’s government tore into one another.

The big moment came almost straight away as the referee for the night Julie Etchingham threw in the question of what each candidate would do about the cost of living crisis gripping so many households in this country.

The clearest answer came from Ms Truss who started laying out tax cuts she would bring in immediately to the obvious disgust of the man who until recently was Chancellor.

And it was then that Mr Sunak apparently decided that he needed to rewrite the book on what Conservatism actually means.

He described tax cuts now as “something for nothing economics that isn’t Conservative, it’s socialism.”

If any Conservative members were watching on a hot Sunday evening, quite a few at that point must have been reaching for a strong beverage to calm their nerves.

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak clashed on tax and the economy (Image: PA)

Ms Truss hit back pointing out that Sunak’s policies were creating massive inflation and failing to help people.

Later she pointedly described herself as a “straight talking Yorkshire woman” and said that is why she felt so uneasy with breaking the manifesto promise about not raising National Insurance which Sunak drove through.

Significantly, Truss also led the way in suggesting she would “not allow business as usual” with the Bank of England after it had failed to stop inflation.

Sunak was horrified and said so.

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Penny Mordaunt

Penny Mordaunt pointed out that she is the only candidate to win a Labour seat (Image: GETTY)

During the contest spinners from the camps are messaging journalists trying to tell them what to think.

But one from the Mordaunt campaign appeared to be on the money when he texted me to say: “It’s clear under Rishi, nothing will change. When your bills continue to go up, nothing will change. When your income continues to drop, nothing will change. A vote for Rishi means nothing will change.”

But things were about to get munich more brutal.

Each candidate got to ask one of their rivals a question and no surprises Truss and Sunbak went after one another.

“You were a Lib Dem and voted Remain, which do you regret most?” Sunak asked, underlying why many Tory MPs distrust Truss.

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Tom Tugendhat

Tom Tugendhat sai9d he is picking up support from Red Wall MPs (Image: GETTY)

But the Foreign Secretary left Sunak poleaxed as she explained her “political journey”.

“I went to a comprehensive school where children did not have the advantages of the school you went to, Rishi.”

Sunak of course went to one of Britain’s poshest schools, Winchester.

She then said that it was that experience and the desire to make life better for children who had her background “that made me a Conservative.”

If that was not a clarion call to the Red Wall, working class Conservative vote, nothing was.

Kemi Badenoch

Kemi Badenoch said that Net Zero must be achieved in a sustainable way (Image: UK GOV)

Going into tonight, three issues needed to be resolved.

First, would Sunak remain the outright frontrunner and class performer which he seemed to be following Friday’s debate on Channel 4.

Second, would Truss come to life from a flat campaign and set out enough of a case for the right of the party to move her into second place against Mordaunt.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, would the surprise sensation of this contest Badenoch knock it out of the park to blow apart the Truss and Mordaunt campaigns?

The answer is that Sunak is now the man to beat but after tonight’s performance he will be eminently beatable by anybody with a Conservative tax cutting platform.

Truss’s Thatcher-like look and gritty performance could be enough to push her now into second place – “I’m not the slickest performer but I get things done.”

She looked like the experienced adult in the room although Mordaunt also managed to put in some lines which offered a wider appeal.

Badenoch had a nice put down of Tugendhat “not being on the front line” but both of them were spectators for too much of the contest.

On the basis of tonight it looks like the Truss versus Sunak show could be a summer long extravaganza where the actual nature of Conservatism is itself up for grabs.

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