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Liz Truss Ally Challenges “No Energy” Rival Right-Wing Candidates To Quit Tory Leadership Race

Liz Truss Ally Challenges “No Energy” Rival Right-Wing Candidates To Quit Tory Leadership Race

Liz Truss is one of the frontrunners in the race to replace Boris Johnson as Tory leader and Prime Minister (Alamy)

4 min read

A prominent backer of Liz Truss has called on her rival candidates “without energy” to throw in the towel and back the Foreign Secretary’s campaign to be Prime Minister.

Julian Knight, a prominent backer of Truss who chairs the digital, culture, media and sport committee, said the eight-strong field should be whittled down as quickly as possible, and those with fewer backers should “get behind a candidate who is true to conservative values”.

He was speaking after the eight candidates left in the race to replace Boris Johnson attended a hustings in Parliament hosted by veteran backbencher Sir Bill Wiggin.

Knight said Truss was “the clearest on tax”, and criticised the former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, her main rival for the leadership, as being “hamstrung” by his time in the Treasury.

“Sunak’s pitch was a bit strange, because I asked him basically what would you do differently as Prime Minister than you did as Chancellor?” Knight told PoliticsHome.

“And he didn't answer the question, so I'm afraid as far as I'm concerned, all I can see today is it's just going to be more of the same, which is not reacting to where we are with the petrol price rise of 60p in six months, and an inflation rate of 11%.”

The first ballot among Tory MPs takes place on Wednesday afternoon, with the result announced at 5pm. The candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated, as will anyone who fails to clear the threshold of 30 supporters. Truss, along with Sunak and Penny Mordaunt are expected to comfortably make it to the next round. 

There are a number of contenders from the right of the party still in the running, but there are suggestions that their support could be fractured and prevent any of them from making it to the final two nominees, who will face a vote by Conservative grassroots members over the summer.

Knight suggested candidates on the right with fewer backers should stand aside now in order to create a more streamlined contest.  

“I think that, frankly, there's a lot of really good debate out there. There's some campaigns with energy in, and there's some campaigns without," he continued. 

“I would say to those without energy that perhaps they ought to get behind a candidate who is true to conservative values, and will try and effectively bring about a low-tax, supply-side economy that we think will distinguish ourselves from Labour and ensure that we can appeal to the widest base of support in a General Election.”Among those also vying for the support of the right of the Tory party, is the Attorney General Suella Braverman, who has rejected the prospect of stepping aside and insisted she has the most popular policies among the membership.

“I am enjoying every moment,” Braverman said following this morning's Hustings, which she suggested she had not found challenging. 

"I'm standing on a platform which is based on a winning plan, as borne out by the polling," she added. 

“My policy offering is by far the most popular amongst regular voters. I'm the only authentic Brexiteer standing.

“I'm the only candidate pledging to leave the ECHR [European Convention on Human Rights] so we can fix the small boats problem.”

Braverman believes she has a combination of a "winning plan and experience” to put her in “a strong position to gather support for my colleagues”.

She faces tough competition from the former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch, who received the longest and most sustained applause at the hustings, as well as several rounds of table banging that could be heard from outside the committee room – a traditional show of support by Tory MPs.

Knight said Badenoch is “clearly a rising star”, but suspected it could be too soon for her to take the top job. "There were some thoughts within the room that perhaps the time isn't quite now for her,” he added.

But Badenoch is said to have won over some of those present, and directly challenged them to show their support publicly. 

"Why aren't you voting for me then?,” she said to appreciative MPs present.  

Both Jeremy Hunt and Nadhim Zahawi did not appear popular with their performances, which Knight said contained a number of undecided MPs.

Both now face a battle to make it through tonight’s ballot, but Tom Tugendhat said he “definitely” has the numbers to progress in the contest.

"Not a shadow of a doubt," he added.

The chair of the foreign affairs committee also urged against narrowing the field too quickly, telling reporters the contest is a “battle of ideas” and the different policy platforms on offer should all get a fair airing.

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Read the most recent article written by Alain Tolhurst - Liz Truss's Ill-Fated Leadership Reached “Pivot Point” At Chevening Meetings


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