British Conservative leader Liz Truss received another boost in the heavyweight division on Monday as party members launched a month-long vote to choose the next occupant of 10 Downing Street.
Trail rival Rishi Sunak was vying to catch up with a plan for future tax cuts and possibly host a future Women’s World Cup in the UK after the English Lionesses won the European Championship.
Truss was present at Sunday’s final against Germany, and the first victory of an English football team in a major tournament since 1966 wiped the race for the premiership from the front pages of newspapers.
The Conservative rivals met later Monday at participants’ rallies in the southwestern city of Exeter – the second of 12 such events before the winner was announced on 5 September.
Sunak, a brilliant debater, needs to gain momentum after Truss led the polls on the Immediate Tax Cut platform to tackle Britain’s worst cost-of-living crisis in generations.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahavi has joined other luminaries in Boris Johnson’s cabinet in backing the foreign secretary against Sunak, his predecessor in the Treasury.
“Liz understands that the status quo is not possible in a time of crisis,” Zahavi wrote in The Telegraph, criticizing Sunak’s plan to prioritize fighting inflation now before cutting taxes later.
“We need an ‘enhancing’ attitude towards the economy, not a ‘disastrous’ one, to address cost-of-living issues and issues on the global stage,” the new chancellor said.
Sunak’s resignation from Johnson’s scandal-stained cabinet helped spark a ministerial exodus that forced the prime minister to resign last month.
As they began receiving mail and online newsletters, opinion polls told a sizable minority of about 200,000 Tory members to harbor a grudge against Sunak that Johnson shares.
The prime minister is not formally taking sides, but has told his aides that he intends to give his successor some advice, “whatever she is,” according to The Sunday Times.
– “Tasteless, even dangerous” –
Despite support from the likes of Zahavi, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, former Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis and centrist conservative Tom Tugendhat, Truss cautions against complacency.
Heading into the Exeter hustle and bustle, the Foreign Secretary has markedly improved her sometimes robotic public speaking – most infamously seen in a 2014 speech when she was Environment Minister.
Returning to their original field, the Brexit fanatic leftover has vowed to “untie” farmers from European Union rules to improve UK food security.
Truss also vowed to address a labor shortage in agriculture, caused in part by post-Brexit immigration restrictions that forced British farmers to leave fruits rotting in their fields and slaughter healthy pigs.
Both candidates have stressed the need for unity after the election is over, realizing that the opposition Labor Party ranks high in the polls amid the economic crisis and Johnson’s political turmoil.
But their supporters aren’t holding back, especially Truss’ militant ally Nadine Dorris.
The culture minister retweeted an image depicting Johnson as Julius Caesar being stabbed in the back by Sunak.
Last year, Conservative MP David Amess was stabbed to death by an Islamic State supporter.
Because of this, Dorris’s retweet was “obnoxious and even bordering on dangerous,” Sunak supporter Greg Hands, a government minister, told Sky News.
Truss’s campaign manager, Labor and Pensions Minister Teresa Coffey, distanced the campaign from Dorris.
“I let her know that a lot of colleagues were upset about it,” Coffey told Times Radio.
In the meantime, Sunak received full support from former Conservative leader William Hague, his predecessor as MP for their northern English constituency.
“I campaigned with literally thousands of candidates. I have mentored dozens,” Haig said in a video message.
“It soon became apparent that this one was the most diligent and efficient person I have ever known,” he said, calling Sunak “very disciplined” and “rational.”