Time running out for Rishi Sunak to take lead over Liz Truss amid battle over energy costs

There are three weeks left until voting for party members closes

Liz Truss enjoys a sizeable lead over Rishi Sunak in the polls. PA
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Time is running out for Rishi Sunak to gain headway over his rival Liz Truss in the Conservative leadership race, as both sides battle over their energy strategies.

As British families face growing uncertainty over the expected rise in energy bills this winter, Ms Truss has pledged to strip a planned £400 discount from high earners, while Mr Sunak says he would channel more support towards the most vulnerable households.

However, the former chancellor has yet to put a firm figure on his plan.

An article in The Daily Telegraph jointly written by former Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis and Education Secretary James Cleverly said Ms Truss was best-placed to take the country forward on its road to post-pandemic recovery.

They also said she would be the best person to lead the Tories into the next general election, which is scheduled to take place no later than January 2025.

“With Liz’s plan we can take the fight to Labour in the north, Lib Dems in the south, and the SNP in Scotland,” Mr Lewis and Mr Cleverly wrote.

“Her plan for the economy, to unleash businesses and lift the tax burden on families, to abolish top-down housing targets and to reform the Treasury rules that discourage investment into the areas that need it, will be a boon to seats across the country.”

The latest poll of Tory party members, carried out by the Observer, gave Ms Truss a commanding 22-point lead over Mr Sunak.

Brandon Lewis is backing Liz Truss to become the UK's next prime minister. PA

Mr Lewis said she was determined to introduce an early emergency budget should she become prime minister.

“I know she’ll be looking to do that within a matter of weeks of becoming prime minister if she’s in that fortunate position,” the former Northern Ireland secretary told LBC.

He said the underlying principle of Ms Truss’s plan was a low-tax economy with growth to put more money in people's pockets. He said wanted to “deal with the green levies in the short term”.

“This is something that is affordable within the headwind we’ve got — to go beyond that, obviously does need an emergency budget and that’s the work that’s going on at the moment,” he said.

Mr Lewis denied the Conservatives were “taking a kicking” from Labour over the energy crisis and described Sir Keir Starmer’s plan as “unfunded”.

Sir Keir said his proposal to prevent the rising of energy bills was a “very strong, robust, costed plan”.

“We either allow oil and gas companies to go on making huge profits, which is what’s happening at the moment, or we do something about it,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“We the Labour Party have said, we’ll do something about it. We will stop those price rises and we will extend the windfall tax on the profits that the oil and gas companies didn’t expect to make. So we’ve got a very strong, robust, costed plan here which will stop those rises this autumn.”

He said inflation, which could hit 13 per cent this winter, would be reduced to 9 per cent under his plan.

Conservative Party members have until September 2 to submit their choice of candidate to be the next party leader and prime minister.

The results will be announced on September 5.

UK Conservatives on the leadership campaign trail — in pictures

Updated: August 15, 2022, 8:56 AM
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