Liz Truss struggles to stay motivated in Conservative Party leadership race

Liz Truss, the secretary of state, chose the wrong entrance for her Tory leadership launch event at Westminster and in the end, she couldn’t remember the exit. It symbolizes a campaign struggling to find its bearings.

Truss is the anointed candidate of Boris Johnson loyalists and wants to be the flagship of the small, low-tax, pro-Brexit wing of the Conservatives. But so far, she is stuck in third place.

On Thursday, in the second vote of Tory MPs on who should succeed Johnson as party leader and prime minister, Truss won 64 votes – 14 more than in the previous round – but remained behind. Commerce Secretary Penny Mordaunt is at 83rd and former prime minister Rishi Sunak is at 101.

The next few days will be crucial for Truss – who describes herself as “the leader of the free world against Putin” – as she battles to make it to the final shortlist of the following two candidates. when Tory MPs vote further. The party members will then choose the winner.

The televised debates are scheduled for this weekend as the candidates make their pitches to the public. Truss, a more experienced communicator than Mordaunt, hopes to score some points.

In the next vote of Tory MPs on Monday, Truss hopes to get many of the 27 votes secured on Thursday by pro-Brexit Justice Secretary Suella Braverman, who has been left out of the fray. nominate. “The next round looks better,” said Simon Clarke, a Treasury Secretary and supporter of Truss.

By presenting herself as the far-right candidate, Truss will also aim to win some of the 49 votes that would go to Kemi Badenoch, the former equality minister, if she is disqualified. Badenoch, however, will be hoping she can usurp Truss as the “stop Penny” candidate.

A pro-Truss cabinet minister said: “The right needs to unite. Johnson’s allies, determined to stop what they see as a “betrayal” Sunak, will do whatever it takes to help her.

Some Truss supporters are now making brief announcements against Mordaunt – one says the commerce minister is a novice she will need “stabilizers” if she ever goes to Downing Street – a sign shows that the competition is going badly.

The official launch of Truss’ campaign on Thursday served up some red meat to the party’s low-tax, pro-Brexit faction.

But Tory MPs noted that there was something difficult about her performance. After she was introduced by Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, there was an awkward delay while the audience awaited Truss’ arrival. Then, in a video clip widely shared on social media, she struggled to find a way out.

Truss said she would cut taxes, shrink the state and challenge Brussels by pushing for her legislation to override controversial post-Brexit trade deals for Northern Ireland included in Johnson’s withdrawal agreement with the EU. .

The Secretary of State’s pledges highlighted how far she has come politically over the years, including opposing Brexit in the 2016 EU referendum. Brexiters’ favorite retainer.”

While in college, she was chair of the Oxford Liberal Democrats, but after graduating joined the Conservatives, inspired by former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

On Thursday, Truss announced it would reverse Sunak’s national insurance increase put in place during the prime minister’s and plans to raise the company tax from 19% to 25%.

Truss says she will be “honest” about her economic plan, although her suggestion that she could fund her program with Covid-19 debt relief has attracted scrutiny. of economists.

Professor Jonathan Portes of King’s College London said he was surprised by Truss’ suggestion that the Treasury Department was planning to repay public debt accumulated during the coronavirus pandemic.

He added that since Sunak’s plan to improve public finances does not involve debt relief, Truss’ proposals do not provide any additional headroom for tax cuts. “If she is proposing changes to the financial rules, she should disclose what changes she wants to make publicly,” says Portes.

Truss’ record as foreign minister and international trade secretary gave her the opportunity to present herself as a Thatcherite freelance trader, now siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the invasion of Ukraine.

As Trade Secretary Truss regularly tops a poll of Tory members on the views of cabinet ministers by a ConservativeHome blog, but subsequent scrutiny of her trade deal with Australia proved to be not very favorable.

New data obtained under freedom of information law and first report by Politico this week, shows that Truss has been warned by officials that post-Brexit trade deals with Australia and New Zealand will damage the UK’s agriculture and food processing industries.

By the time the Department for International Trade finalized the deal with Australia in December 2021, Minette Batters, chair of the National Farmers Union, had described it as “one-sided” and “damaging” for agriculture. his.

A government insider said: “DIT has failed in several key areas of attack in its agreement with Australia but Truss, [the then Brexit minister] David Frost and Boris Johnson were so hungry to sign, they just succumbed across the board. “

From the EU’s perspective, Truss’ message as foreign minister is sometimes seen as her seeking to back the Conservatives, rather than tackle major challenges abroad.

Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform, a think tank, said Truss’ style has not always gone down well in Brussels and major EU capitals like Paris and Berlin. “They feel as though she treats the world of diplomacy like it’s the Tory convention,” he added.

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