Liz Truss, the front-runner for the next UK prime minister, on Thursday criticized rival Rishi Sunak for his tax policies when he was finance minister as the couple kicked off a six-week campaign.
The Foreign Secretary wrote in the Daily Mail that the UK is “going in the wrong direction on taxes as the tax burden is the highest in 70 years”.
She promised to cancel the recent increase and suspend green fees on electricity bills.
Sunak has led tax hikes as the UK struggles to rebuild public finances in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and rising inflation, and blamed these promising cuts on a “fantastic economy”.
The pair made it to the final round to try to convince some 200,000 party members after the last round of voting among Conservative MPs on Wednesday.
The final result will be September 5th.
Sunak launched his rank-and-file campaign by claiming he was the only candidate capable of winning the general election to be held within the next 18 months.
“We have a really positive message that we need to get across to all of our members now – most importantly, who will best beat Keir Starmer and the Labor Party in the next election?” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
“I believe that I am the only candidate who can do this.”
‘I was wrong’
Sunak mentioned former leader Margaret Thatcher, who remains a hero to many in the party.
“My values are Thatcher. I believe in hard work, family and honesty,” he wrote.
“I am a Thatcherist, I run as a Thatcherist and I will govern as a Thatcherist.”
But he faces an uphill battle: Polls show party members support the more right-wing Truss.
The fight had already turned personal during a televised debate, but Sunak appeared to call for a truce on Thursday, writing that “I love and respect” Truss.
The pair will lobby members face-to-face for the first time on Thursday before a dozen clashes across the country take place over the next few weeks.
Truss’s message to members is that she is a committed politician who will “bulldoze” through institutions that stand in the way of reform.
But she has been forced to defend a history of ideological and political twists, including her previous support for the Liberal Democrats and the opposition to Brexit she now supports.
“I was wrong and I’m willing to admit I was wrong,” she told BBC Radio 4 on Brexit on Thursday.
“I developed my political views and ideas. I think the idea that someone should have the same views, at the age of 17 and at the age of 46, is completely ridiculous.”
“Reduce taxes and deregulate”
Sunak’s resignation earlier this month helped bring down Prime Minister Boris Johnson after months of scandal, including Partygate.
Downing Street is reported to be running a “anyone but Rishi” campaign.
At his last Prime Minister’s Questions meeting in Parliament on Wednesday, Johnson hinted at support for Truss’s Thatcher platform.
He urged his successor to “cut taxes and deregulate where possible to make this a better place to live and invest”.
The BBC and Sky News are planning live televised debates between the pair, with the first on Monday, with other potential duels possible before mail-in party voting ends on 2 September.
According to the snap polls, Sunak won the previous two televised debates, and in the second, an uncompromising clash with Truss took place.
But his popularity among the masses waned after questions were raised about his family’s taxation system, and inflation soared to a 40-year high of 9.4% in June.