Liz Truss kicks off leader bid with slick video as race turns nasty

Now Liz Truss kicks off leader bid with slick video vowing return to ‘core Tory principles’ and ‘low taxes’ – while frontrunner Rishi Sunak is accused of doing a deal with Cummings and Priti Patel mulls making it a DOZEN hopefuls fighting for keys to No10

  • Former Chancellor’s team insist he has not spoken to the controversial former adviser since he left No 10
  • But rival leadership campaign source said Mr Sunak should ‘come clean’ about whether his team had any links
  • Mr Cummings has posted ‘poisonous’ claims online about Mr Sunak’s rivals for the Tory leadership
  • Nadine Dorries has claimed that the maverick aide had been working with Mr Sunak for ‘quite a long time’

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Liz Truss officially kicked off her leadership bid today with a slick video vowing to return to ‘core Tory principles’ – as the battle threatened to turn nasty. 

The Foreign Secretary joined the fight with the race looking increasingly chaotic after 11 candidates declared, and Priti Patel seriously considering making it a dozen by throwing her hat into the ring.

Many of the contenders are turning their fire on Mr Sunak, who appears to be the front runner – with a bitter row going on over how and when to slash taxes.

Mr Sunak is pitching himself as the PM who will take difficult choices, but rivals have swiped about a pact with former No10 chief Dominic Cummings who they say has been posting ‘poisonous’ claims online. 

Ms Truss is vowing to return to ‘proper Conservative policy’ with tax cuts ‘from day one’ and business rates reforms. She suggested that the £2trillion debt mountain should be put on a ‘longer-term’ footing in order to give immediate wriggle-room.  

In her video, she played up her experience at the top levels of government and said the party needs to ‘deliver, deliver, deliver’ to win the next general election. 

Meanwhile, Tom Tugendhat has released his own promo insisting he represents a clean break and return to integrity. 

As the leadership contest ramps up:

  • The powerful 1922 committee will thrash out the details of the leadership contest tonight, with the threshold for nominations expected to be set high to cut the number of candidates; 
  • Tory leadership hopefuls came out swinging with promises to slash taxes – with Sajid Javid and Tom Tugendhat among those pledging to scrap the hated national insurance hike;
  • Nadhim Zahawi has said he would force every Government department to cut running costs by 20 per cent to fund tax cuts, as he hit out at ‘smears’ over his tax affairs, saying he does not benefit from an offshore trust and has never held non-domicile status; 
  • Former Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove backed Kemi Badenoch in the leadership race; 
  • Penny Mordaunt’s campaign got off to a bumpy start after it emerged that convicted killer Oscar Pistorius featured in her promotional video.
Liz Truss joined the fight with the race looking increasingly chaotic after 11 candidates declared, and Priti Patel seriously considering making it a dozen by throwing her hat into the ring

Liz Truss joined the fight with the race looking increasingly chaotic after 11 candidates declared, and Priti Patel seriously considering making it a dozen by throwing her hat into the ring

Former chancellor Rishi Sunak, 42, is currently the lead candidate in the Tory leadership race with the highest number of MPs backing his campaign

Former chancellor Rishi Sunak, 42, is currently the lead candidate in the Tory leadership race with the highest number of MPs backing his campaign

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi chairs a meeting with Andrew Bailey, The Governor of the Bank of England, and meets other Treasury ministers as he begins work in HM Treasury

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi chairs a meeting with Andrew Bailey, The Governor of the Bank of England, and meets other Treasury ministers as he begins work in HM Treasury 

Meanwhile, Tom Tugendhat has released his own promo insisting he represents a clean break and return to integrity

Meanwhile, Tom Tugendhat has released his own promo insisting he represents a clean break and return to integrity

Mr Sunak's bid to be crowned Tory leader is already being countered by a 'mucky memo' of claims about the ex-chancellor being circulated among MPs

Mr Sunak’s bid to be crowned Tory leader is already being countered by a ‘mucky memo’ of claims about the ex-chancellor being circulated among MPs

Dominic Cummings, pictured in north London, is said to have worked with the former Chancellor for 'quite a long time'

Dominic Cummings, pictured in north London, is said to have worked with the former Chancellor for ‘quite a long time’

How will the Tory leadership contest happen? 

The race to replace Boris Johnson as Tory leader – and consequently as PM – is getting under way in earnest this week.

But the first issue will be setting the exact rules for the contest.

The powerful backbench 1922 committee is due to elect its new executive this afternoon.

And the body’s first duty will then be to decide on how to conduct the leadership race – with the details expected to be confirmed tonight.

Under the existing template, any candidate can feature on the ballot as long as they are nominated by eight MPs.

However, senior figures on the 1922 are pushing for this to be increased – perhaps to 20 or even as high as 35.

That would avoid a ‘grand national’ style field, with more than a dozen politicians seriously considering a tilt at the top job today. 

MPs expect that they will start to vote on the candidates on Thursday, after a brief spell of hustings at Parliament and some intense lobbying in the tea room and corridors.

The normal format is for the lowest-scoring candidate to be ejected after each round – but in reality when they see which way the wind is blowing others also pull out.

Deals are frequently done to throw support behind other hopefuls, as happened when Matt Hancock opted to withdraw and support Mr Johnson in 2019.

Sir Graham Brady, the 1922 committee chair, is determined that the numbers will be whittled down to a final two by the time the Commons goes into recess on July 21.

This pair are then expected to go head to head in a national vote of the Tory membership.

Hustings events will be hosted in each region during August, with a postal ballot.

The winner should be announced in time for the return of Parliament at the beginning of September.

At this point the new leader will be able to command a majority in the House of Commons – and the Queen will invite them to take over as PM.  

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Ms Truss today insisted she has the experience to lead the country – and now is not the time for an untested leader. 

Writing in The Telegraph, she said: ‘Under my leadership, I would start cutting taxes from day one to take immediate action to help people deal with the cost of living.

‘I would reverse the national insurance increase that came in during April, make sure we keep corporation tax competitive so we can attract business and investment into Britain, and put the Covid debt on a longer-term footing.’

Ms Truss said her plan would get the country back on track towards becoming a ‘high-growth and high-productivity powerhouse’.

‘It is built on a clear and longstanding Conservative philosophy, including bold supply-side reform,’ she added.

The Foreign Secretary said she had ‘led the way’ in making the most of Britain’s ‘new-found freedoms’ outside the EU, but insisted ‘we can go further, whether it is doing more to champion innovation or charting our own course on regulation’.

She said she would bring ‘clear and decisive leadership’ to Downing Street, adding: ‘Colleagues know I mean what I say and only make promises I can keep. I can be trusted to deliver.’

Ms Truss said the Tories can win the next election, but acknowledged it will be ‘an uphill battle’.

In a video posted to Twitter with the tagline ‘Trusted to deliver’, she said a prime minister with ‘experience, who can hit the ground running from day one’ is needed.

She highlighted her work on trade deals with Australia and Japan, and on the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol Bill as among her credentials.

In a sign of the potential explosiveness of a ‘Rishi vs Liz’ run-off, her allies savaged the ex-Chancellor’s economic record, saying he had ‘f***** up’ on taxes.

Referencing the sum set aside for the Covid test and trace programme, an ally said: ‘Where has this idea come from that tax cuts would be inflationary but putting £37 billion into giveaways isn’t?

‘It’s going back to the Gordon Brown approach of taxing people so we can give it away to certain groups instead of trusting people to spend their own money.’

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps used a campaign video to deliver a message to Tory MPs nervous about their electoral prospects, telling them: ‘I can help you win your seat.’

He said: ‘My case for leadership is simple: I can plan, I can deliver, I can communicate, I can campaign, I can help you win your seat.’

There were also claims of vicious briefing against Mr Sunak last night.

An extraordinary 400-word dossier being circulated on WhatsApp called Mr Sunak ‘a liar’ and a ‘schoolboy’. 

And a video was widely shared of a young Mr Sunak admitting he had ‘no working class friends’. 

Mr Cummings has issued a string of attacks on Tory leadership contenders via social media in recent days, particularly Ms Truss – widely seen as Mr Sunak’s main rival for the Tory crown. He suggested the Foreign Secretary was unfit to lead the country. 

Nadine Dorries, a close ally of ousted Boris Johnson, claimed the maverick aide had been working with Mr Sunak for ‘quite a long time’ – and was hoping to return to Downing Street. She told the Daily Mail: ‘People have to ask themselves the question: why is Cummings backing Rishi? 

‘The answer to that question is because Cummings believes he can control Rishi and sees a role for himself back in government, and that is quite terrifying.’

A senior Tory source said: ‘Dominic Cummings has done enough damage to British and public life and the last thing the party needs is his advice at this stage, with his brand of toxic, confrontational and destructive politics.’

On the involvement of Mr Cummings, one leadership campaign source said: ‘Candidates should come clean about whether they are receiving any advice at all from Cummings, because it is obvious he is trying to insert himself into the campaign.

‘I think he is poisoning the well of debate, and trying to turn this contest into something that it doesn’t need to be. This could be a completely clean and fair fight about Conservative values.

‘Rishi Sunak’s campaign should come clean. Are they having any contact with Dom, do they welcome any contact, are they receiving any advice?’

But a Sunak campaign spokesman hit back, saying: ‘Mr Cummings and Rishi have not spoken since he left No 10 almost two years ago.’

A source added that there was ‘absolutely no involvement whatsoever’ between Mr Sunak’s campaign and Mr Cummings, and that he would have ‘no role’ in a Sunak government.

Blue-on-blue attacks in the leadership race stepped up over the weekend, despite Mr Johnson last week urging his Cabinet to focus on voters rather than themselves.

Two rival campaign teams are said to have passed Labour a digital dossier containing lurid allegations about their opponents, the Sunday Times reported. 

The paper said the documents include claims about the hopeful leaders’ private lives and financial arrangements.

Mr Cummings, meanwhile, claimed on Friday that at least ‘three current candidates would be worse than Boris’ and ‘at least one is more insane than Truss, clearly unfit to be anywhere near nuclear codes’. 

He also said one candidate was romantically involved with an aide.

Former Tory party chairman David Davis said people should treat Mr Cummings’ claims with ‘a pinch of salt’ as he had ‘proven himself untrustworthy in the past’.

Mr Cummings did not respond to requests for comment last night. 

Rishi’s PM bid is targeted with ‘mucky memo’ accusing him of being ‘schoolboy’ and a ‘liar’ as clip of a young Sunak saying he has ‘no working class friends’ resurfaces and goes viral

By Stewart Carr and Greg Heffer, Political Correspondent for MailOnline

Rishi Sunak’s bid to be crowned Tory leader is being countered by a ‘mucky memo’ of claims about the ex-chancellor being circulated among MPs, it has emerged.

The former Treasury chief has become the early frontrunner in the race to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister.

He has attracted the support of around 30 Conservative MPs so far, as the party divides between the nine officially declared candidates.

But Mr Sunak’s leadership campaign has been targeted by those hoping to prevent his ‘coronation’ as PM.

The ex-chancellor has also witnessed a TV clip of himself, from 20 years ago, talking about his circle of friends being ‘err… not working class’ go viral on social media.

And there have been claims that allies of Mr Johnson are aiming to stop Mr Sunak winning the Tory leadership contest over his ‘treachery’ in resigning from Government on Tuesday night – a move that precipitated the PM’s downfall.

According to the Telegraph, a 424-word criticism of Mr Sunak is being widely shared across Tory WhatsApp groups.

As well as claiming ‘there is nothing Conservative about the ‘Big Tax and Big Spend’ agenda of Rishi Sunak’, Mr Sunak is also branded a ‘liar’ and accused of ‘schoolboy errors’.

The document is reported to state: ‘He added £400billion to the national debt to pay workers not to work, only to spend countless more billions for them to eat out a few weeks later.

‘(He) stated that as a Conservative he would not borrow money to pay £12billion for social care, only to magic up £18billion for ‘cost of living’ measures just a few months later.’

The ‘mucky memo’ is also said to claim Mr Sunak ‘publicly lied’ twice about his wife’s non-dom tax status, as well as savage attacks on his ‘failed’ mini-budget in March.

Meanwhile, in a TV clip from 2001, Mr Sunak has been revealed to have been interviewed by the BBC for the series ‘Middle Classes: Their Rise & Sprawl’.

Appearing on the documentary as a prodigious student in his final year at the University of Oxford, Sunak described his world.

‘I have friends who are aristocrats, I have friends who are upper class, I have friends who are, you know, working class, but… well, not working class. 

‘But I mix and match and I go to see kids from an inner city state school and tell them to apply to Oxford and talk to them about people like me. 

‘And then I shock them at the end of challenging them for half an hour and tell them I was at Winchester, and my best friend is from Eton or whatever, and then they’re like, ‘oh okay.”

VelvickChris posted: 'Hi Rishi Sunak, have you got any working class friends yet? If not, try renting a few for your leadership campaign'

VelvickChris posted: ‘Hi Rishi Sunak, have you got any working class friends yet? If not, try renting a few for your leadership campaign’

Chops8592 tweeted: 'Imagine being that rich you have to distinguish between aristocrats and upper class loooool. Mad that Rishi Sunak can say this out loud...'

Chops8592 tweeted: ‘Imagine being that rich you have to distinguish between aristocrats and upper class loooool. Mad that Rishi Sunak can say this out loud…’

Several downloads of the clip have attracted millions of views on Twitter, with one scoring 2.5million hits alone.

And commentary about the former Chancellor has been swift.

Benjamin, 23, a student who did not wish to give his last name, said Mr Sunak was ‘completely out of touch’.

‘He’s completely out of touch,’ the student said.

‘Even (though) that was made over 10 years ago (the TV clip), it probably resonates with his current thinking.’

Chops8592 tweeted: ‘Imagine being that rich you have to distinguish between aristocrats and upper class  loooool. Mad that Rishi Sunak can say this out loud…’ 

‘He’s so far removed from the general public, he should never become PM,’ tweeted Common_Sense_71.

VelvickChris added: ‘Hi Rishi Sunak, have you got any working class friends yet? If not, try renting a few for your leadership campaign.’

Journalist Basit Mahmood tweeted: ‘Remember that most working class kids from ethnic minority backgrounds don’t go to Winchester or prep schools.’ 

'He's so far removed from the general public, he should never become PM,' tweeted Common_Sense_71

‘He’s so far removed from the general public, he should never become PM,’ tweeted Common_Sense_71

Journalist Basit Mahmood tweeted: 'Remember that most working class kids from ethnic minority backgrounds don't go to Winchester or prep schools'

Journalist Basit Mahmood tweeted: ‘Remember that most working class kids from ethnic minority backgrounds don’t go to Winchester or prep schools’

Eight other Tories have so far put themselves forward to replace Mr Johnson as Prime Minister, just days after a collapse in party support forced his resignation.

Former health secretaries Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid have both pledged to slash corporation tax as they announced separate bids for the Tory leadership.

It comes after two serving Cabinet ministers, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, revealed their intention to run for the top job in the space of an hour.

Declaring their candidacies in The Telegraph, Mr Hunt and Mr Javid both said they would not only scrap the former chancellor’s plans to raise corporation tax from 19% to 25% in April, but reduce the rate to 15%.

Mr Hunt also attempted to differentiate himself from the crowded field with a pitch based on his decision to stay on the backbench while Boris Johnson was at the helm of the Government.

Mr Zahawi, Rishi Sunak’s successor, had said earlier this week that ‘everything is on the table’ when questioned over the corporation tax rise.

The leadership contenders’ timescales for the change are different, with Mr Hunt slashing the tax to 15p in his first autumn Budget, while Mr Javid would set a ‘glide path’.

Jeremy Hunt also attempted to differentiate himself from the crowded field with a pitch based on his decision to stay on the backbench while Boris Johnson was at the helm of the Government

Jeremy Hunt also attempted to differentiate himself from the crowded field with a pitch based on his decision to stay on the backbench while Boris Johnson was at the helm of the Government

Mr Javid also said he would scrap the Government’s controversial national insurance hike, bring forward the planned 1p income tax cut to next year, and introduce a further ‘significant’ temporary reduction on fuel duty.

The pair spelled out their economic plans in separate interviews with the newspaper.

In addition to cutting corporation tax, Mr Hunt said he would remove business rates for five years for the communities most in need.

Most of those areas are in the so-called ‘Red Wall’ of traditional Labour heartlands, the newspaper said, with a quarter of locations in England and Wales in line for the tax break.

Scotland and Northern Ireland would get money to match the policy.

‘What matters is wealth creation, which means that people don’t feel that they need to leave a Bolton or a Bolsover because they can get better jobs in Manchester or London. They can actually stay there,’ Mr Hunt said.

‘That means helping them have opportunities at home that makes talented people want to stay, not go.’

Meanwhile, he pledged to continue pushing legislation to overwrite parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol through Parliament.

Sajid Javid (left) said his plan for the economy would cover both short-term measures - including a new package of support worth up to £5 billion to help with energy bills - and a 'longer-term' vision for tax reform

Sajid Javid (left) said his plan for the economy would cover both short-term measures – including a new package of support worth up to £5 billion to help with energy bills – and a ‘longer-term’ vision for tax reform

Mr Javid said his plan for the economy would cover both short-term measures – including a new package of support worth up to £5 billion to help with energy bills – and a ‘longer-term’ vision for tax reform.

He said: ‘The Government can’t prevent the impact of high price rises on everyone. You can’t mitigate everything.

‘The long way out of this, the better way, is to turbo growth. I’ve always believed in free markets, in low taxation, in light regulation, as the conditions that are necessary for growth.

‘It was true 20 to 30 years ago, it was true under Margaret Thatcher, and it’s true now, because it’s how economies grow and how they work.’

Earlier, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that after ‘careful consideration’ and discussion with colleagues and family, he would not stand to be party leader and the next prime minister.

In addition to Mr Hunt, Mr Javid, Mr Zahawi, Mr Shapps and Mr Sunak, Attorney General Suella Braverman, ex-minister Kemi Badenoch and senior Tory Tom Tugendhat have launched their own bids.

Tory leadership candidate Suella Braverman has pledged to 'move heaven and earth to get this country back on track', writing that her views on Brexit are 'as much a part of me as my DNA'

Tory leadership candidate Suella Braverman has pledged to ‘move heaven and earth to get this country back on track’, writing that her views on Brexit are ‘as much a part of me as my DNA’

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is also widely expected to stand, with the Mail on Sunday reporting she will seek to advocate ‘classic Conservative principles’, and could declare her candidature as soon as Monday.

Another potential front-runner is trade minister Penny Mordaunt.

Ms Mordaunt has heavily suggested she will throw her hat in the ring, sharing an article on Saturday night from Dr Gerard Lyons, Mr Johnson’s former chief economic adviser as London mayor, which states she would make a ‘great prime minister’.

She also pushed back against those who may want to depict her as ‘woke’ in a Twitter thread early on Sunday morning, as she sought to clarify how she would define a woman.

It was reported on Saturday that Mr Johnson intends to stand down as Prime Minister on Monday in order to run again for Tory leader.

But this suggestion was knocked down by a spokesperson for Mr Johnson as completely untrue.

Grant Shapps said he wants to rebuild the economy so it is the biggest in Europe by 2050, and address the cost-of-living crisis

Grant Shapps said he wants to rebuild the economy so it is the biggest in Europe by 2050, and address the cost-of-living crisis

Tory MP Mark Francois has said he believes at least 12 people will put their names forward.

He told GB News: ‘It looks like this is going to be the Grand National but without the fences, so we are probably heading for at least a dozen candidates at the moment.’

Launching his campaign, Mr Zahawi pledged to lower taxes for individuals, families and business, boost defence spending, and continue with education reforms that he started in his previous role.

Mr Shapps said he wants to rebuild the economy so it is the biggest in Europe by 2050, and address the cost-of-living crisis.

Ms Badenoch announced a plan for a smaller state and a Government ‘focused on the essentials’.

Mr Sunak launched his leadership bid with the message: ‘Let’s restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country.’

Former minister Steve Baker has thrown his support behind Ms Braverman’s campaign, despite previously saying he was seriously considering putting himself forward for the top job.

The Attorney General has pledged to ‘move heaven and earth to get this country back on track’, writing in The Telegraph on Saturday that her views on Brexit are ‘as much a part of me as my DNA’, and advocating a reduction to planned tax hikes ‘that are putting off investment’.

As candidates have started to make their move, Tory MP Sir Charles Walker said it is incumbent on those running for leader that they ‘don’t knock lumps out of each other’.

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