OPINION - Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have very different visions, but one key similarity

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 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

It can be hard sometimes to look past the personality quirks of the final two candidates to be Conservative Party leader and prime minister.

There is Liz Truss, the Thatcher-dressing, slightly wooden-speaking, cheese and pork markets aficionado. She’s up against Rishi Sunak, the nuclear-powered school prefect described as ‘suave’ by his friends and ‘slick’ by his foes.

But this contest offers voters (or at least the 100,000-200,000 people who had the foresight to join the Tories at least three months ago) a significant choice, perhaps greater than any contest of recent vintage.

Think back to Boris Johnson vs Jeremy Hunt, Theresa May vs Andrea Leadsom, even David Cameron vs David Davis. Sure, there were major presentational and some important policy differences between the candidates, but hardly a major economic divide.

In fact, you’d have to go back to 2001, and the race between right-winger and eurosceptic Iain Duncan Smith and the One Nation, pro-European (indeed pro-single currency) Ken Clarke for the last time there was such clear blue water between the final two candidates to be Tory leader.

Sunak has been direct to a fault: no tax cuts until inflation is under control. Truss, on the other hand, has dismissed the idea that tax cuts might be inflationary, vowing to take on “economic orthodoxy’’. When asked which economists agreed with her, she pointed to Patrick Minford who, well, I’ll leave this here.

The problem for Sunak is three-fold. First, he is essentially asking Conservative members to eat their vegetables. Second, he is starting this final portion of the contest roughly 19 percentage points behind Truss. And third, he doesn’t have much time to gain on her, as ballots drop on doormats from 1 August and most people send them back straight away, i.e. before a lot of the hustings take place.

But here’s the handbrake turn. In spite of their differences, Truss and Sunak share fundamental values that distinguish both of them from what came before. Johnson does not tire of telling anyone who will listen that he won the Tories their largest Parliamentary majority in over 30 years.

He did so not only by vowing to ‘Get Brexit Done’, but by marrying traditional Tory offerings with promises of money for left-behind parts of the country that had long voted Labour (and were already trending Conservative).

Sunak and Truss may have a different approach to tax cuts and their timing, but both are their own brand of fiscal conservative in a way that Johnson never was, or at least never governed as. Therefore whoever wins this contest, it will mark a clean break from Johnsonism by a shift to the right. And therein lies the opportunity for Labour.

Elsewhere in the paper, Tamara Ecclestone was just one of the celebrity victims of the criminal gang which orchestrated the biggest set of home burglaries in British history. Ben Bryant has spent a year investigating a most audacious of heists.

In the comment pages, Sarfraz Manzoor says dads like him are learning the truth that modern men can’t have it all. He also reveals his complicated relationship with the Oxbridge dominance of the British establishment, in that he hates that it exists... but also slightly wishes he were part of it.

While Maria Balshaw, director of Tate, wishes the ‘art space for everyone’ a happy 125 years.

And finally, is this London Fields or Muscle Beach? Gym bros are training in parks, pecs out but Samuel Muston has had enough of the scourge of topless men. Yes, there are pictures.

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