Liz Truss’s team in secret talks to lure in defectors from Rishi Sunak

Liz Truss’s team in secret talks to lure in defectors from Rishi Sunak after four former leadership rivals get behind her

  • One prominent member of Sunak’s camp nearly defected to support Truss
  • However pulled back due to a plan to reduce regional pay in public sector 
  • Polls of Tory Party members have given Ms Truss seemingly unstoppable lead
  • Ministers who backed Sunak early will be wondering about career impact  

Cabinet supporters of Rishi Sunak have been in talks with Liz Truss over defecting to her campaign as her poll lead lengthens, The Mail on Sunday has learned.

One prominent member of the former Chancellor’s camp was on the brink of announcing his switch to the Foreign Secretary last week, but pulled back following Ms Truss’s ill-conceived – and swiftly reversed – plan to introduce regional pay for public sector workers.

With polls of Tory Party members giving Ms Truss a seemingly unstoppable lead, Ministers and senior MPs who backed Mr Sunak early in the contest – such as former Party Chairman Oliver Dowden, Welsh Secretary Robert Buckland and former Health Secretary Matt Hancock – are now left wondering about the impact on their careers.

One prominent member of the former Chancellor Rishi Sunak's camp was on the brink of announcing his switch to the Foreign Secretary last week, but pulled back following Ms Truss's ill-conceived ¿ and swiftly reversed ¿ plan to introduce regional pay for public sector workers

One prominent member of the former Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s camp was on the brink of announcing his switch to the Foreign Secretary last week, but pulled back following Ms Truss’s ill-conceived – and swiftly reversed – plan to introduce regional pay for public sector workers

There were reports yesterday that Tory lobbyist Mark Fulbrook had sent Sunak supporters messages claiming others are about to ditch him, according to The Times.

Ms Truss has won around Sunak supporter James Evans, a Tory member of the Welsh Assembly, who tweeted: ‘At the start of the leadership contest I was backing Rishi but as this has gone on there is only one person to unite the country and the Party and that is Liz Truss!’

The messages are said to offer no promise of jobs, but make clear that MPs who switch will receive credit with Ms Truss for doing so.

A Truss campaign source told the Telegraph: ‘We are staying in contact with MPs of all stripes, including some Rishi supporters, to try to convince them to come over.’

Momentum around the Truss campaign has built in recent days as four former Tory leadership rivals have backed her, including former chancellor and health secretary Sajid Javid. His declaration followed that of Nadhim Zahawi, the Chancellor, Penny Mordaunt, the trade minister, and Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee.

Mr Javid had been in charge of the Treasury when Mr Sunak was effectively his deputy as chief secretary to the Treasury. The pair were believed to have been politically and personally close. In an interview last week, Mr Javid said: ‘I think Liz is best placed to unite the party, to fix the economy and to beat Labour at the next election.’

Announcing his endorsement on Wednesday, he wrote in The Times: ‘With only two years before the next election, there has been a temptation to just ‘get the barnacles off the boat’ and avoid any short-term political pain for long-term national gain. We must reject that.

‘As a nation, we are sleepwalking into a big-state, high-tax, low-growth, social democratic model which risks us becoming a middle-income economy by the 2030s with the loss of global influence and power.’

Momentum around the Truss campaign has built in recent days as four former Tory leadership rivals have backed her, including former chancellor and health secretary Sajid Javid

Momentum around the Truss campaign has built in recent days as four former Tory leadership rivals have backed her, including former chancellor and health secretary Sajid Javid

Among Mr Sunak’s Cabinet supporters are Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, Health Secretary Steve Barclay, Environment Secretary George Eustice and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis, Leader of the House of Commons Mark Spencer, and Northern Ireland Secretary Shailesh Vara are also supporting the former chancellor.

Frontrunner Ms Truss received a further boost after 21 current and former Cabinet Ministers issued a declaration of support.

Mr Sunak’s campaign, however, appears to be stalling, with his last high-profile Cabinet backers Mr Raab and Mr Shapps emerging three weeks ago.

It came after the former chancellor continued to suffer a backlash for his comments about diverting funding from ‘deprived urban areas’ to wealthy places like Tunbridge Wells in Kent.

Among Mr Sunak's Cabinet supporters are Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, Health Secretary Steve Barclay, Environment Secretary George Eustice and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps

Among Mr Sunak’s Cabinet supporters are Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, Health Secretary Steve Barclay, Environment Secretary George Eustice and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps

Foreign Office minister Lord Zac Goldsmith said: ‘This is one of the weirdest – and dumbest – things I’ve ever heard from a politician.’

Jake Berry, chairman of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, said that in public Mr Sunak ‘claims he wants to level up the North, but here he boasts about trying to funnel vital investment away from deprived areas. He says one thing and does another – from putting up taxes to trying to block funding for our armed forces and now levelling up.’

Shadow levelling-up secretary Lisa Nandy said: ‘It’s scandalous that Rishi Sunak is openly boasting that he fixed the rules to funnel taxpayers’ money to prosperous Tory shires. This is public money. It should be distributed fairly and spent where it’s most needed – not used as a bribe to Tory members.’

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