Conservative MP Damian Green has announced he is backing Rishi Sunak in the Tory leadership race while Nadhim Zahawi has announced he is supporting Liz Truss.
As the chair of the One Nation Conservatives group, Mr Green’s endorsement will provide large momentum to leadership hopeful Rishi Sunak.
Meanwhile, writing for The Telegraph, the Chancellor says that Ms Truss, the Foreign Secretary, “will overturn stale economic orthodoxy and run our economy in a Conservative way”.
Rishi Sunak will welcome the endorsement after defence secretary Ben Wallace and former leadership hopeful Tom Tugendhat announced they were backing Liz Truss to be prime minister.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, Mr Green said: “I think he [Rishi Sunak] would make a very very good prime minister to meet the huge challenges that we have over the next couple of years and I think he’s in a very good position to unify the party which is an essential part of winning the next election.”
Mr Green, who formerly worked on Mr Tugendhat’s campaign for leader added: “The one thing I’ve regretted over the last few weeks is a lot of the tone of the election campaign which has got pretty personal.
“There’s been a lot of personal attacks on Rishi, I would urge everyone involved to dial it down a bit otherwise you’re writing Labour party election leaflets for the next election.”
The former minister under Theresa May said Rishi Sunak had shown in the pandemic that he can find solutions to difficult situations.
“Rishi handled the terrible problems of the pandemic really well. It’s unarguable that the furlough scheme was a huge success,” Mr Green said. “We thought we’d come out of the pandemic with many millions unemployed but we’ve actually got a historically low unemployment rate and that shows when faced with a crisis Rishi can actually conjure up a solution which makes a real difference to millions of people and I think that’s what we need in the next prime minister.”
Mr Green said the One Nation group had a meeting on Friday with over 50 people in attendance. He revealed that there was a “small plurality” for Rishi Sunak over Liz Truss.
Meanwhile, Mr Zahawi wrote: “Liz understands that the status quo isn’t an option in times of crisis. To quote the excellent economist Sam Bowman, we need a ‘booster’ attitude to the economy, not a ‘doomster’ one, in order to address cost-of-living woes and the challenges that face us on the world stage. Liz will overturn stale economic orthodoxy and run our economy in a Conservative way.”
He added that the treasury needed the political leadership to deliver a “step-change” in how the nation’s finances are run.
Mr Sunak acknowledged he is “playing catch-up” to Liz Truss as he seemingly claimed the Tory leadership race’s sought-after underdog status. Following Mr Zahawi’s endorsement, Ms Truss and Mr Sunak are now backed by three former leadership rivals each.
Ms Truss played down claims she has a clear lead over Mr Sunak, even as her campaign was further buoyed by endorsements of party heavyweight Tom Tugendhat, insisting it was a “very, very close race,” while trumpeting her “support from right across all parts of the Conservative Party”.