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Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss go head-to-head in the BBC Conservative Leadership debate in their bid to win become PM. (Photo: Handout via Getty Images)
It was billed as make-or-break for Rishi Sunak in his bid to claw back Liz Truss’s clear lead in the Tory leadership race.
But while the former chancellor produced a polished performance in the BBC live debate, he failed to land the killer blow he needed to trouble Liz Truss.
What’s more, his aggressive strategy, which saw him repeatedly interrupt his opponent, is likely to prove a turn-off for the thousands of Tory members watching, who will ultimately decide which candidate replaces Boris Johnson.
Indeed, a snap opinion poll by Opinium showed Tory voters thought Truss came out on top, by 47 to 38 per cent.
It will be of little comfort to Sunak that Labour voters thought he did best.
Conservative voters thought Truss did better (47% vs 38% for Sunak).
Labour voters thought Sunak did better (41% vs 30% for Truss). pic.twitter.com/XsAnuzZBVX
— Opinium (@OpiniumResearch) July 25, 2022
As expected, the main division between the two contenders, with Sunak claiming Truss’s tax plans would “cause misery to ordinary people” by running the risk of higher inflation and interest rates.
In response, the foreign secretary said the former chancellor’s own economic plans would send the UK into a recession and accused him of being engaged in “Project Fear”.
Almost improbably, after an hour of arm-to-arm combat, both Sunak and Truss insisted they would happily serve in one another’s cabinet.
As things stand, and baring an unforeseen disaster in her campaign, it will be Truss who will be the one offering jobs in the new government and Sunak tried, and failed, to get back into the race.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.