Rishi Sunak steps up bid to become PM with road map for Britain

Tory leadership contender puts forward new policies in push overtake Liz Truss who is leading in polls

Conservative Party leadership hopeful Rishi Sunak is aiming to bolster his campaign, after polls showed his rival has an edge among voters. Getty
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Prime ministerial hopeful Rishi Sunak will put forward a major set of proposed policies for governing Britain with a series of announcements in the coming days to showcase his vision for the UK under new leadership.

A new policy on immigration and home affairs will be published this weekend followed by measures on the economy, security and levelling-up, a high-profile member of his team has said.

The next week will be vital for the former chancellor to make up ground on Liz Truss who the latest polls showed had surged 24 points ahead of him in a survey of Conservative members who will vote for the next leader.

We need serious, purposeful leadership on the economy and tackling the beast of inflation
Robert Buckland, UK cabinet minister speaking to The National

But Robert Buckland, the Welsh Secretary and key supporter of Mr Sunak, told The National that “it's not at all clear yet who's going to win”.

“Liz has had a good start with those polls, but the make-up of the membership is largely unknown even to us,” he added. “It’s quite a mixed bag, they’re not all from the shires, they are much more diverse and complex in their approach.”

Mr Sunak’s team hope that Ms Truss’s bold move on Thursday stating that she would slash taxation to stimulate growth despite a potential £30 billion hit on government coffers will backfire.

Economists fear it could lead to a surge in interest rates and further stoke inflation with heavy government borrowing.

“We need serious, purposeful leadership on the economy and tackling the beast of inflation,” Mr Buckland said.

“I believe that Rishi Sunak is man to help do that, beating the baleful effects of inflation on livelihoods. We have to deal with that before an agenda that includes tax cuts. We're not going to be over-promising and under-delivering.”

Mr Sunak is expected to detail an economic strategy early next week that will amount to significant attack on Ms Truss’ policies at a time when Britain is facing a potentially severe recession.

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.

A senior Sunak campaign official said running high interest rates while cutting taxes “could be a disaster for businesses”.

Ms Truss has made great play of being an inheritor of Margaret Thatcher’s economic policies but this was also attacked.

“We will remind people that Margaret Thatcher didn't just splash the cash and splurge, she balanced the books and then, as the years went by, she was able to cut taxes in a sensible way,” the official said.

Many of the 160,000 Conservative members also had “long memories” of the high interest and inflation during the 1980s.

“We’re going to keep on coming out with announcements on policy that get the balance right. We not having fairy tales, we’re making sure that we focus on delivering.”

Mr Sunak will also emphasise that he is “not continuity Boris” the source said. “He is a break with the past and it will be a very different set of standards in Number 10. Our members were looking to see how we can win the next election.”

Much of Mr Sunak’s strategy for the coming weeks is being planned by Eleanor Shawcross, who was a highly respected aide to former chancellor George Osborne. She was also one of the key strategists who helped the Tories win an unexpected election victory in 2015 and would likely head up Mr Sunak’s policy unit if he entered Downing Street.

He also has the capable former Number 10 Downing Street and Treasury special advisers in Liam Booth-Smith and Nerissa Chesterfield.

Mr Buckland, the former justice secretary who was one of the “grown ups” brought back into the Cabinet when Mr Johnson resigned earlier this month, said Mr Sunak had managed to assemble a “broad coalition” of moderate One Nation Tories alongside ardent Brexiteers.

“People want to work with him because he's a team player. He's also been a breath of fresh air in the sense that he's open to ideas, which is great.

“You need realism and good sense to get Britain through the difficult times ahead and if anybody can do that it’s Rishi Sunak.”

Updated: July 22, 2022, 6:19 PM