Former UK Cabinet minister Michael Gove has endorsed Rishi Sunak to be the next Conservative leader, accusing Liz Truss of taking a “holiday from reality” with her plans to cut tax during the cost-of-living crisis.
He suggested the foreign secretary's proposals would put “the stock options of FTSE 100 executives” before the nation's poorest people.
Mr Gove also said he does not expect to return to front bench politics, as he first backed underdog Kemi Badenoch in the race to replace Boris Johnson in No 10.
Writing in The Times, he said: “I do not expect to be in government again. But it was the privilege of my life to spend 11 years in the Cabinet under three prime ministers. I know what the job requires. And Rishi has it.”
He criticised Ms Truss's plan to immediately reverse the national insurance rise and her previous dismissal of increasing direct support to the most vulnerable when she said she opposed “handouts”.
On the economy, Mr Gove said: “And here I am deeply concerned that the framing of the leadership debate by many has been a holiday from reality. The answer to the cost-of-living crisis cannot be simply to reject further 'handouts' and cut tax.
“Proposed cuts to national insurance would favour the wealthy, and changes to corporation tax apply to big businesses, not small entrepreneurs.
“I cannot see how safeguarding the stock options of FTSE 100 executives should ever take precedence over supporting the poorest in our society, but at a time of want, it cannot be the right priority.”
Mr Gove said he does not believe Ms Truss's “prospectus is the right answer for the world we face”.
“It does not address the fundamental problems of potential neglected, productivity suppressed and the vulnerable suffering the most,” he wrote.
At the party hustings in Manchester on Friday night, Ms Truss reiterated her plan to lift the ban on new grammar schools, saying she wants everyone “right across the country” to have the choice to enrol their children at them.
But Mr Gove highlighted the grammar schools pledge, when there is “neither the money to build them nor the evidence they advance social mobility”, as among her plans that should not be among the Conservatives' priorities.
He launched a defence of Mr Sunak, saying the tax rises he ushered in as chancellor were “a consequence of Covid, not Rishi's inner preferences”.
And Mr Gove hit out at those who have recently backed Ms Truss, saying the “SW1 consensus” predicts she is the most likely candidate to win.
“A bandwagon is clattering down Whitehall with eager new adherents clambering aboard,” Mr Gove said.
The Sunak campaign welcomed his backing, with a spokeswoman saying: “Delighted to have the support of a party and Cabinet veteran who has intellectual heft and shown the radical reforming zeal in every job he has had, that we now so desperately need.”
Mr Johnson sacked Mr Gove as levelling-up secretary after the former Cabinet minister told him to quit as prime minister before his ultimate resignation.
Truss attacks BBC
At the hustings in front of Tory members, who will choose the next leader, Ms Truss chose to attack the BBC as she sidestepped a question about a 2009 paper she co-authored that called for charges for patients seeing GPs — whom she also said should have their pay cut by 10 per cent along with registrars and consultants.
GB News's Alastair Stewart tried to ask her about the report, rediscovered this week by TalkTV, but mistakenly said it was written in 2019.
Ms Truss laughed and said: “I always thought you had high-quality standards at GB News — it's not the BBC, you actually get your facts right.”