Rishi Sunak’s bid for No 10 has received another blow as former Tory leadership contender Tom Tugendhat criticised his fiscal policy and endorsed frontrunner Liz Truss.
Mr Tugendhat, who was eliminated from the race earlier this month, insisted the foreign secretary could “unite” the fractured party and her proposals for over £30 billion in tax cuts were “founded on true Conservative principles”.
His remarks came just 24 hours after the defence secretary Ben Wallace, who is popular among Tory members, revealed his support for Ms Truss and attacked Mr Sunak for “walking out” of government.
The chairman of the foreign affairs committee, who did not serve in Boris Johnson’s cabinet and was untainted by the multiple scandals, ran his own leadership bid promising the party a “clean start”.
But backing Ms Truss, who has remained loyal to the outgoing prime minister, Mr Tugendhat claimed she is the “only” candidate who has convinced him they are ready to be PM — a role he described as “no walk in the park”.
With rocketing energy and food prices, the Tory MP said “many families will be staring at Christmas with dread”.
Writing in The Times, he claimed: “Liz’s plan for the economy is founded on true Conservative principles of low tax, a lean state and bold supply-side reform.”
In a swipe at the former chancellor Mr Sunak, who has repeatedly claimed his rival’s plans would increase inflation and interests rates, Mr Tugendhat said: “It is not right that we have the highest tax burden in 70 years at a time of sluggish growth and rising energy prices”.
The former chancellor was on the defensive over tax again in a crunch interview with Andrew Neil on Friday, rejecting accusations that his policies would result in recession and warning that Ms Truss’s plans for vast tax cuts would pour “fuel on the fire” of inflation.
In an attempt to pick up support among the Tory faithful, Mr Sunak will on Saturday launch an attack on “left-wing agitators” and pledge to stamp out “woke nonsense” during a campaigning visit.
The speech will echo the former chancellor’s marked shift to the right on other cultural issues, in an apparent attempt to appeal to the Conservative members who are deciding the contest.