Analysis: Prepare For Tory Civil War If Sunak And Truss Face-Off To Be Prime Minister

The former chancellor and foreign secretary could not conceal their disdain for one another in the latest TV debate.
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss repeatedly clashed in the ITV debate.
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss repeatedly clashed in the ITV debate.
ITV/Press Association

All five remaining candidates in the Tory leadership race tonight made it clear they wouldn’t have Boris Johnson in their cabinet.

It’s also a pretty safe bet that neither Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss will have room for each other in their respective top teams.

On the evidence of tonight’s ITV leadership debate, it’s hard to believe that they are even in the same party.

From the very start, the personal animus between them - stemming from Truss being anointed by allies of Boris Johnson as the “stop Rishi” candidate - was obvious.

Taking aim at Truss’s plans for immediate tax cuts if she wins, former chancellor Sunak said: “This something for nothing economics isn’t Conservative, it’s socialism.”

The foreign secretary hit back: “Under your plans, we are predicted to have a recession because you have raised tax - it is cutting back on growth, it is preventing companies from investing and it is taking money out of people’s pockets.”

Given the chance to grill one of the other candidates, Sunak took aim at Truss’s colourful political CV,

“My question is for Liz, actually,” he said. “Liz, in your past you’ve been both a Liberal Democrat and a Remainer. I was just wondering which one you regretted most.”

In her response, Truss couldn’t resist a jibe at the former chancellor’s privileged upbringing, saying at the state comprehensive she attended in Leeds, kids didn’t get the “opportunities you might have got at your school Rishi”.

Which is why it was pretty funny when Truss also declared: “I believe in the Ronald Reagan dictum that you shouldn’t speak ill of a fellow Conservative.”

The reason this matters so much is that, ahead of tomorrow’s latest ballot of Tory MPs, Sunak and Truss are the candidates most likely to make it to the final run-off, when party members will decide who becomes our next prime minister.

That will follow six weeks in which the pair will travel the length and breadth of the country taking part in hustings.

On the evidence of this evening, this promises to be nothing short of a summer-long Tory civil war, played out in front of the whole country.

This will be a cause for celebration at Labour HQ. The rest of us should get the popcorn in and enjoy the show.


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