Rishi Sunak’s income tax cut promise is a desperate attempt to follow Liz Truss

On July 31, the brilliant Lionesses of England lifted the Women’s Euro 2022 trophy after beating Germany. The women have been hailed by figures across the political spectrum for finally bringing football home – something the men’s team has failed to do for generations. As Tory MP Tracey Crouch, a longtime supporter of women’s football, said on Twitter, with a wink: “You want to do a job, ask a woman.”

Could she also have been referring to Tory leadership candidate Liz Truss? The Foreign Secretary was at Wembley to share the euphoria and tweeted about the “incredible atmosphere” and how the players “made everyone incredibly proud”.

Truss’s campaign to be Britain’s next prime minister seems to have unstoppable momentum. She won the support of heavyweights Tom Tugendhat, Brandon Lewis and, on July 31, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi. She and Rishi Sunak will travel to Exeter today (August 1) for the final leadership races, as Tory members begin to receive their ballots in the mail.

The former chancellor, the MPs’ favourite, has made a series of eye-catching promises in a desperate bid to win over the party base – who will ultimately decide his fate. He was accused of turning around today after promising an income tax cut from 20p to 16p by the end of the decade, and again tried to convince members that choosing Truss’ “fairy tale economy” would be an “act of self-sabotage”. .

Truss’s plans for immediate tax cuts, including reversing Sunak’s National Insurance hikes and scrapping his planned corporate tax hike, are proving popular with party loyalists. It increasingly seems that the more Sunak moves into the Truss space on tax cuts, the more credibility he loses. As Chief Treasury Secretary Simon Clarke succinctly put it: “Liz will cut taxes in seven weeks, not seven years.”

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Truss’ bold tilt for the top job isn’t without risk, however. Focusing on ‘Boris continuity’ will not have universal appeal with members or the public. His riders, who seem to have free rein to take pieces from his opponent, are an unpredictable element.

Nadine Dorries has sparked widespread disgust for tweeting a doctored image of Sunak as Brutus prepared to stab Boris Johnson as Caesar in the back. “I find him, less than a year after the stabbing of our colleague [David Amess]in very, very bad taste, even dangerous,” Sunak supporter Greg Hands told Sky News – a point with which many in his party agreed.

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With households struggling with the cost of living crisis, however, this contest will be decided on the economy. And strikingly, both candidates are willing to poke fun at the “failed Treasury orthodoxy” of the past decade and admit that the government they served in failed to deliver growth.

The bidding war between Sunak and Truss underscores conservative shortcomings. Campaign leaders from Keir Starmer’s Labor and Ed Davey’s Lib Dems will be content to watch this bitter battle continue, in full view of the camera, in Exeter.

[See also: Will Liz Truss’s tax cuts work?]

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