Liz Truss's leadership campaign was given a boost on Wedneday as two surveys showed her far in the lead and she received the backing of Sajid Javid, who attacked Rishi Sunak’s more cautious plans for tax cuts.
A ConservativeHome website survey put the foreign secretary 32 per cent ahead of Mr Sunak after an earlier YouGov poll of party members showed Ms Truss had a 34-percentage point lead over her leadership rival.
Mr Javid, who resigned as health secretary minutes before Mr Sunak left the Cabinet and started the cascade that forced Boris Johnson to quit as Tory leader, has now thrown his support behind the frontrunner.
The failed leadership candidate warned that “tax cuts now are essential”, as Mr Sunak resists adopting Ms Truss’s more radical plan to get to rein in spiralling inflation first.
A former chancellor, Mr Javid also warned in an article for The Times that the nation was at risk of “sleepwalking into a big-state, high-tax, low-growth, social democratic model which risks us becoming a middle-income economy by the 2030s”.
“If we can renew our government with a bold agenda, the Conservatives can still beat Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP at the next election – and the evidence suggests Liz is the best-placed candidate to do so,” he said.
Mr Javid launched a leadership run on a platform of swift tax cuts but quickly pulled out, struggling to win enough nominations from Tory MPs to go through to the first round of voting.
His support for Ms Truss came shortly before the latest hustings of Conservative members at an event in Cardiff on Wednesday evening.
The YouGov survey showed 60 per cent of the party members polled between July 29 and August 2 saying they intend to vote for the foreign secretary, with 26 per cent backing Mr Sunak.
The poll of 1,043 Conservative Party members indicates only 11 per cent do not know who they will vote for, while 2 per cent said they would not take part in the contest.
A further indication of her dominance came with a survey of 1,003 members by the ConservativeHome website, which had 58 per cent backing Ms Truss to Mr Sunak’s 26 per cent.
But Ms Truss insisted she was taking nothing for granted, as a delay in ballot papers being issued due to cyber-security concerns gave her rival a little more time to catch up.
She acknowledged that there is “still a long way to go” in the contest as she continues to face questions about abandoning a key policy pledge.
Her campaign has endured a rocky period as she dropped the £8.8 billion ($10.7bn) pledge to cut the public sector wage bill by paying workers in cheaper areas of the country less than in more expensive parts.
Ms Truss claimed it had been “misrepresented”.
But she refused to say why the policy was being abandoned entirely if the problem is merely one of presentation.
Critics of the plan had claimed it would go against the government’s "levelling-up" agenda by cutting wages in more deprived areas of the country, although Ms Truss insisted it was never meant to affect people’s current pay rates.
The information put out by her campaign said the potential £8.8bn saving from the policy depended on it being “adopted for all public-sector workers in the long term”.
“I wanted to make sure that our important frontline workers like doctors and teachers weren’t worried," Ms Truss said. "That’s why I cancelled the policy.
“I did it straight away. I was decisive and I was honest with the public about what I was doing.”