Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are poised to go head-to-head in the first official showdown with Tory members in Leeds as candidates race to win northern voters and blue-on-blue attacks intensify in the race for top office.
This is the first of 12 allegiance sessions to quiz the final two candidates before voting for the next party leader and prime minister, closing on 2 September.
The two-hour hunt will air on LBC radio from 7:00 pm and will be hosted by host Nick Ferrari.
The event is taking place in Leeds, where Ms Truss hoped to garner voter support by giving her full support to Northern Powerhouse Rail and promising to “turbo-energize investment” in the north of England.
During a visit to the Yorkshire city, Ms Truss insisted she was “fully committed” to her plan for new high-speed rail links, originally announced by Boris Johnson but subsequently scaled back.
She told reporters: “I grew up in Leeds, I know how poor transport is and to be honest it hasn’t gotten much better since I was a teenager taking the bus to Leeds city centre.
“What I want to see is really fantastic rail transport, better roads for people to work.
“I’m sure it’s absolutely essential for the future of the north of England.”
Asked how she could afford the scheme given the huge tax cuts she promised, Ms Truss said: “The taxes I am cutting are affordable within our budget.
“By creating new low-tax investment zones in places like West Yorkshire, allowing for post-Brexit reforms, freeing up more investment from the city, we will grow the economy faster – it will bring in more tax revenue and these projects allow us to afford it.”
She also vowed to “fix the Treasury’s funding formula” if she gets the keys to No. 10 to make sure the region gets a “fairer share” of resources.
Ms Truss took a veiled swipe at Mr Sunak, who is the MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire, when asked if he was equally committed to the railway project, saying: “It’s about me that I’m willing to accept that as far as orthodoxy is concerned Whitehall, I’m ready to challenge the groupthink that hasn’t invested enough in this part of the country for decades.”
Promises by the Foreign Secretary to cut taxes significantly helped her come out ahead in opinion polls and member polls.
However, a new YouGov poll shows that Sunak has a significant lead over his rival among swing voters, even as both candidates suffer from “significant” unpopularity among the general population.
The latest poll is a boost to Mr. Sunak, who is looking to regain his footing after being accused of “coup” in his fiscal policy as he vowed to temporarily cut VAT on electricity bills despite repeatedly branding tax cut by Ms Truss. plans as “consolation tales”.
In his latest political statement, the former chancellor promised to protect the “precious” green belt as he argued that more houses could be built on abandoned lots.
In the latest sign of the bitter, personal nature of the Tory leadership struggle, Mr. Sunak once again faced attack from Nadine Dorris.
The minister of culture, a loyalist of Mr Johnson and now a supporter of Ms Truss, said on BBC Radio 4’s Today program: led by Rishi Sunak.
She defended her previous mockery of the ex-millionaire chancellor’s expensive clothes and said she warned that the competition to replace Mr Johnson would “unleash hellhounds”.
Former chief whip Mark Harper, who backs Mr. Sunak, defended the ex-chancellor’s decision to announce his pledge to cut VAT on domestic electricity bills for a year at this point in the race.
Asked why Mr Sunak didn’t start his campaign with these plans, Mr Harper told BBC Newsnight: “He announced it because it looks like the energy price ceiling could go up a few hundred pounds higher than we thought. .
“And he always said very consistently that if he had to do more, he would do it.
“And he announced this particular policy now in part so that those people who listen to this program at home have some peace of mind that if he is elected prime minister, that in fact he will always have their back in the same way, how he did it. during the pandemic.”
The clashes in Leeds come after mayors from across the north of England wrote to the two challengers to raise concerns about the government’s plans for northern transport.
Andy Burnham, Tracey Brabin, Steve Rotheram, Oliver Coppard and Jamie Driscoll called on the winning candidate to meet with them to agree on “a better path forward for the North”.
“This is an important decision that will affect the lives of future generations of northerners. We are indebted to them for demonstrating the highest ambitions for what the North of England can become in the future,” they wrote.