A minister reportedly accused Rishi Sunak of having acted like a Labour chancellor, as Conservatives lined up to attack the bookies’ favourite in the Tory leadership race over his record in government.
James Cleverly, recently appointed education secretary, said Mr Sunak had emulated the opposition and plotted to oust Boris Johnson while serving in the most senior role in his cabinet, according to The Times.
The member for Braintree gave his support to Liz Truss, saying she had shown leadership as foreign secretary and had the experience to deal with the cost of living crisis, the paper’s political editor said.
Allies of Mr Johnson have been highly critical of Mr Sunak for his handling of the economy and alleged scheming against the outgoing prime minister.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a firm Johnson loyalist, said: “I belong to a party that believes in low taxation and the former chancellor has talked about low taxation and delivered higher taxation.”
Mr Sunak was the only candidate not to pledge tax cuts on gaining office, though he later said he would bring cuts once inflation was brought under control.
The Times reported that Mr Rees-Mogg was expected to back Liz Truss, who entered the race on Wednesday on a pledge to cut taxes “from day one”. Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary was also said to be expected to back the foreign secretary.
Despite pleas from Tory grandees and MPs alike to keep the leadership race civil, plotting and accusations were rife soon after the first candidate threw their hat into the ring.
A so-called “dirty dossier” on Mr Sunak was sent around the party by MPs opposed to the former chancellor’s bid.
The memo circulated via Whatsapp reportedly attacked the former chancellor personally and accused him of having a “big tax and big spend agenda”.
One Tory source told The Independent the memo was part of a right-wing campaign to stop the contest becoming a “coronation” for Mr Sunak – who has far more publicly announced backers than any other candidate.
Tory MPs say some Johnson loyalists who remained in government or accepted ministerial jobs this week were angry at Mr Sunak for his “treachery” in setting the prime minister’s resignation in motion.
Sajid Javid, who left Mr Johnson’s government minutes before Mr Sunak, condemned the memo and called for an end to “poisonous gossip” as he launched his own bid for leadership on Monday.
The former health secretary urged the party to pick a leader with “integrity” minutes before facing difficult questions over his past tax-avoiding non-dom status. Mr Javid refused to explain why he held the status but said he had been “transparent” in his tax affairs.