Analysis: Gloves Come Off As The Tory Leadership Race Gets Nasty

Rival candidates have Rishi Sunak's record as chancellor in their sights.
Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries want to stop Rishi Sunak becoming PM.
Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries want to stop Rishi Sunak becoming PM.
Sky/Press Association

We’re only a few days in, but the Tory leadership race already promises to be a bitter and divisive contest.

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries - who had briefly considered throwing their respective hats into the ring - this morning announced that they were backing Liz Truss.

The Boris Johnson allies made no attempt to hide the fact that they see the foreign secretary as the best hope of stopping Rishi Sunak becoming prime minister.

The former chancellor has long been viewed with suspicion by those close to the current PM, and they believe their concerns were justified by his resignation from the cabinet last week.

Rees-Mogg couldn’t resist a dig at Sunak’s economic record, saying: “When we discussed taxation, Liz was always opposed to Rishi’s higher taxes. That, again, is proper Conservatism.”

Education secretary James Cleverly also revealed that he is supporting Truss, describing her as a “low tax high growth candidate” in another none-too-subtle jibe at Sunak.

Sunak returned fire as he launched his campaign, hitting out at the immediate tax cuts promised by nearly all of his rivals.

He said: “We need a return to traditional Conservative values and that means honesty and responsibility, not fairytales. It is not credible to promise lots more spending and lower taxes.”

A Sunak government, he said, would only reduce the tax burden once inflation is under control, not before.

Further underlining the fact that the Tories are now at war with one another, John Major used an appearance before the public administration and constitutional affairs committee to launch another attack on Boris Johnson.

The former PM said the whole country knew the government had “unlawfully tried to prorogue parliament, ignored the nationwide lockdown by breaking its own laws in Downing Street and tried to change parliamentary rules to protect one of their own” - a reference to the Owen Paterson controversy.

With eight more weeks of the Conservative leadership battle to go, the civil war within the party is only going to get worse.

The question is what will be left of the Tories for the new leader to piece back together?


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