Tory leadership race hots up as candidates prepare for second televised debate

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(l to r) Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Tom Tugendhat at the debate (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)
(l to r) Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Tom Tugendhat at the debate (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

The Tory leadership race continued on Saturday as the remaining five contenders prepare for the second televised debate on Sunday evening.

On Friday evening, the candidates clashed over trans rights, whether Boris Johnson is honest, and tax cuts.

Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak accused rivals Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss of producing “fairytale” tax policies during a feisty war of words.

During a visit to Teesside, Mr Sunak later doubled-down on his economic plans and insisted his priority was to curb inflation.

“I want to get a grip of inflation because inflation is what makes everybody poorer,” he said.

Ms Truss in contrast, claimed it is “wrong to put up taxes” at a time when families are struggling across the country and took an apparent swipe at Mr Sunak, by claiming “now is not the time for a continuity of our current economic policy”.

In order to try and capture the support of Brexiteers of their party, both Mr Sunak and Tom Tugendhat claimed that they both will maximise the opportunities of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Although Mr Tugenhat’s share of the vote dropped after the second round of results, he said: “I have never turned down a challenge because the odds were against me. I don’t plan to start now.”

On Saturday, Penny Mordaunt issued a direct appeal to voters, calling on them to contact their MP to ask for their support.

She said: “I’m very aware that while my party chooses a new leader, you are watching us pick your next prime minister.

“At some point, you will all have a vote. Contact your local MP to ask for their support for me and I will focus on making our nation all it can be.”

She also received the backing from chair of the defence select committee, Tobias Ellwood who claimed Ms Mordaunt is the only one who has a security plan for the UK.

Despite being implored to drop out of the race, the final candidate, Kemi Badenoch, was praised by Tory MP Tom Hunt who said the former equalities minister “speaks frankly and directly”.

He added: “What we did see, which I think was refreshing, was somebody who speaks the truth, who speaks frankly and directly.

“And what I also think is quite attractive about Kemi is the fact that she is not your conventional type of politician, not your conventional type of conservative.”

The final five will take part in the second televised debate at 7pm on ITV on Sunday. On Monday, the next round of voting will take place before further votes are held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Another debate will be held on Tuesday at 8pm on Sky, before the final two will take part in regional hustings from July 22 onwards.

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