OPINION - The Standard View: Whether it’s Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss, the Tories face a mighty challenge

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 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

And we’re off. The ballot for party members to vote in the Conservative leadership election closes at 5pm on September 2, but this race looks more a sprint than a marathon.

That is because most eligible voters are expected to cast their ballot early, placing even greater importance on the first weeks of the campaign, when those who haven’t already made up their minds will be taking stock before voting packs land on a few doormats from August 1.

The next big test will be the live television debate on the BBC on Monday, followed by one on Sky and a series of regional hustings. Polling suggests that Liz Truss enjoys a comfortable lead over her rival, Rishi Sunak. But much can change over the course of a campaign, and the ex-chancellor knows he must use the debates to try and convince as many members as possible before votes are cast.

The election and accompanying hustings are an opportunity to hear from both candidates their plans to address choppy economic waters. The first stage of the contest was dominated by candidates competing to offer the largest tax cut, despite concerns around how they would be funded and their inflationary impact. But whoever wins will take the helm of a nation facing a cost-of-living crisis and the impact of rising interest rates.

To that end, a record £19.4 billion of interest payments were made on government debt last month as inflation surged, official figures reveal today. Public sector net borrowing reached £22.9 billion, the second highest for June since monthly records began in 1993. These figures come after it emerged that inflation reached 9.4 per cent yesterday, with double-digit price rises on the way.

The two remaining candidates have competing economic visions, particularly over the timing of tax cuts. But whoever wins will face the same dilemmas, over how to protect consumers from soaring energy bills, get the economy growing and address public-sector pay.

Answers to these questions and more will help determine not only who emerges victorious in this contest, but the state Britain finds itself in come the next general election.

Lionesses dig deep

One-nil down, two-one up, with the win sealed by the sweetest of extra-time strikes by Georgia Stanway. England are through to the semi-finals of Euro 22.

To win when everything is going your way is one thing. To do so after a disrupted build-up, when manager Sarina Wiegman missed days of training due to Covid and then falling behind to Spain in the game, is quite another.

And now there are more ways for fans to get involved, with a Women’s Euro fan festival coming to Trafalgar Square to celebrate the final week of the tournament.

Next up for the Lionesses is Belgium or Sweden, with a place in the Wembley final up for grabs. Come on, England!

Soho is centre stage

It’s curtain-up on the first new West End theatre for half a century following a 12-year, multi-million pound project to construct the new venue, called @sohoplace.

The 602-seat auditorium includes a bar, restaurant, rehearsal room and terrace, and will be run as not-for- profit. Details on the first show will be revealed later this year. We’ll be queuing up for a ticket.

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