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Senior Labour MP Says "Super Wealthy" Tory Leadership Contenders Don't Get Cost of Living Crisis

Lucy Powell, Labour's shadow digital, culture, media and sport secretary (Simon Dack / Alamy Live News)

3 min read

Exclusive: Labour shadow cabinet member Lucy Powell has said “super wealthy” Tory leadership candidates cannot understand people’s concerns over cost of living as they lead “very well-off” lives.

Five Conservative MPs, including former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Penny Mordaunt, Kemi Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat, are currently battling it out to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. The racial and gender diversity of the line-up is considered a noteworthy contrast to previous leadership contests. 

In a new interview that appears in full in The House magazine, Powell was asked whether the diversity of the Conservative contenders was embarrassing for Labour given the opposition party's record of consistently choosing white men as leaders. 

But Powell said that she disagreed with this assessment, pointing to a lack of economic diversity among Tory leadership contenders. 

"They're likely to elect somebody who's led a very well-off life, who is incredibly well-off and not leading the life that most of my constituents – or most of their own constituents, frankly – are leading," the shadow digital, culture, media and sport secretary said. 

“It’s not just about who's at the very top, but who makes up your whole team. If you look at Angela Rayner as our deputy, her life story and how she's got to where she's got to, she's incredibly in touch with those day-to-day troubles and strife.

“Even Keir [Starmer] and the background he's come from. He's not posh at all. He’s from a pretty ordinary background in that sense. Our whole shadow cabinet is very diverse."

Following two rounds of voting by Conservative MPs, Sunak, a former investment banker, is the frontrunner to be the next prime minister. He secured the most votes in the second ballot on Thursday, with 101 MPs backing him.

Sunak is married to Akshata Murthy, the daughter of the billionaire owner of tech giant Infosys. Her personal wealth came under scrutiny after it emerged that she was claiming non-domiciled status in the United Kingdom, exempting her from millions of pounds of tax. The couple have a combined fortune of £730m.

The former chancellor defended his wife's wealthy background during the latest televised leadership debate Britain's Next Prime Minister: The ITV Debate on Sunday.

Sunak said of his father-in-law: "He had a dream and a couple of hundred pounds... And with that, he went on to build one of the world's largest, most respected, most successful companies, that by the way employs thousands of people here in the United Kingdom.

"It's an incredibly conservative story, actually it's a story I'm really proud of. As prime minister, I want to ensure that we can create more stories like theirs here at home."

Powell told The House that she does not fear any of those in the running for Tory leader and that whoever wins the race will likely “give Labour a bigger opportunity to reach back into the so-called ‘Red Wall’ voters who on the economy are much more interventionist”.

“Let's see who they pick in the end. But if you are incredibly wealthy, like super, super wealthy... I think I'm well off on an MP's salary, and I am, compared to mean or median wages," she continued. 

“But, if you're incredibly wealthy, can you really understand what it's like to not top up your electricity meter, your gas heater, or not be able to go to the shops and buy enough food to feed your children, or what it's like when bills go up even £100 a month and the impact that can have on some people's lives? Can you really relate to that? I don't think so.”

Read the full Lucy Powell interview in The House magazine.

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