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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Rishi Sunak Ally Says He Should Not Stand Down To Let Liz Truss Win Tory Leadership Contest

Rishi Sunak is more than 30 points behind Liz Truss in the most recent poll of Tory members (Alamy)

3 min read

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has dismissed suggestions that Rishi Sunak should step aside for Liz Truss in the Tory leadership contest, despite polling showing he is more than 30 points behind her.

Shapps, who is a prominent supporter of the former Chancellor, likened the race to replace outgoing prime minister Boris Johnson to the Brexit referendum, where the result defied expectations.

There have been calls to end the contest, which still has another two and a half weeks to go, so that a new prime minister can immediately implement policies to help deal with the cost-of-living crisis.

Johnson, who is on holiday in Greece, has been clear he will not take any decisions of consequence ahead of leaving Number 10 next month.

But Shapps told Sky News he believed it was important for the contest to be seen through to its conclusion. 

"We’ll have a new leader in two weeks. I don't think it would be right of either side to not allow a formal vote to go ahead,” he said. 

A new poll by YouGov shows Truss is set to win the Tory leadership race by a decisive margin.

The survey of Conservative party members, who are the only people able to vote on who should be the next prime minister, showed the gap between the two candidates has narrowed, but the Foreign Secretary still has a a 32-point lead over the former Chancellor.

Yesterday a prominent Truss backer said the Tory leadership contest is taking too long and should have been “wrapped up quicker” in response to claims we are stuck with a “zombie government”

James Cleverly, the education secretary, said he would have been “very, very happy” if the race could have come to an end sooner.

But Sunak has insisted he still has a "shot" at Downing Street, despite three further polls in the last week putting him at least 30 points back from his rival. On Thursday he told ITV's This Morning he "definitely" had a chance of victory.

Shapps, who was an early backer of Sunak after his own leadership bid fizzled out, said there have been a number of unexpected results in British politics in recent years which have not gone the way prior polling had suggested.

Pointing to the 2015 general election, where the Tories won an unexpected majority, and the 2016 EU referendum when the Remain vote was expected to win, he added: "I think it would be a very good idea for those who are voting in this contest to complete the vote.

"It is only just over a fortnight's time and we will know the answer to that.

"In the meantime, many of us are working very hard to make sure that services are available this summer.”

In an apparent jibe at the current PM, after Johnson was spotted in Greece this week on the second of two vacations this month, Shapps added: “It’s what I’ve been doing.

“I haven't been away this summer, I have been looking after the transport system to make sure people can get away on holiday, for example."

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