Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak will face off on television for the second time in 24 hours after the two prime ministerial contenders tore each other to pieces over their economic agendas in their first face-to-face debate.
The foreign secretary, who is celebrating her 47th birthday on Tuesday, and the former chancellor will face each other at a 6pm TalkTV/Sun event, with both sides hoping to learn tactical lessons from Monday night’s BBC clash.
In the scramble, the two Tory leadership rivals ruined each other’s economic plans as personal attacks continued, and Mr Sunak was accused by Ms Truss’s allies of “mansplaining” during the debate.
Mr Sunak said there was “nothing conservative” about Ms Truss’ approach to cutting taxes and ramping up borrowing, arguing that it would give the party “absolutely no chance” of winning the next election.
Foreign Minister Ms Truss, in turn, suggested that her rival would lead the country into recession and criticized him for raising taxes to “the highest rate in 70 years.”
On China, Ms. Truss accused her rival of “seeking closer trade relations,” while Mr. Sunak said “Liz was on her way” to get to the point where she opposes more close ties.
Mr. Sunak also tried to highlight his decision to step down from Mr. Johnson’s government as a sign that he was acting on his own principles, while Ms Truss emphasized her loyalty to her current boss.
But both candidates ruled out Mr Johnson’s job in their cabinet, with Ms Truss saying she thought he “needed a well-deserved break” before eventually adding, “I’m sure he’ll have a role, I’m sure he’ll be a loud voice.” but he will not be part of the government.”
Mr. Sunak was more direct in his response, saying, “For me, the simple answer is no.”
An Opinium snap poll based on a sample of 1,032 voters found that 39% thought Mr. Sunak did better compared to 38% for Ms. Truss, but, crucially, Conservative voters split 47% against 38% in favor of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
With mail-in ballots due to reach Conservative members’ doorsteps by Aug. 5, Mr. Sunak needs to do well in the debate and in the first election.
Opinion polls and participant polls showed him trailing Ms. Truss for the Conservative votes, with the foreign secretary as the bookmaker’s favorite on 5 September.
Former Cabinet Minister David Davies, who backs Mr Sunak, said Ms Truss’ policies could fuel inflation, forcing the Bank of England to raise interest rates to 7%, hitting people with mortgage and other debts.
“The Tory party is, generally speaking, a little older than average. It’s a little more middle class, but not so much these days, it’s a little more middle class,” he told Sky News.
“He’s going to take care of things like their baby that’s going to have to deal with these kinds of interest rates in the future, so that’s important.”
He dismissed suggestions by Ms. Truss’s allies, including Labor and Pensions Minister Teresa Coffey, that Mr. Sunak was “mansplaining” and talking about his rival.
“Sometimes it’s important to intervene in a debate,” Mr. Davis said.
He added: “We need someone who a) knows what he stands for, b) is brave enough to make difficult decisions, and c) is determined enough to do it.
“And this is Rishi Sunak.
Cabinet Minister Simon Clark, an ally of Ms Truss, said: “I think there were some pretty aggressive moments from Rishi towards Liz from the start in terms of interrupting her when she was trying to make her case, but overall I I think there was a reasonable spirit in the debate, which obviously reflected the importance of the issues.”
Mr Clark, who was Mr Sunak’s deputy finance minister before the former chancellor stepped down, defended Ms Truss’s economic plans.
He told Sky that separating Covid-related debt into a separate category would allow it to be repaid over a longer period, allowing for more flexibility in day-to-day spending.
But he added: “Decisions will be made on broader levels of government spending across the board to make sure this is a costed plan.
“As conservatives, we must believe – I believe very strongly – that boosting the economy through growth-promoting measures, including tax cuts, is the right thing to do.”
– The debate will be streamed on the Sun website and TalkTV from 6:00 pm.