Truss attacks Sunak’s ‘disastrous’ economic plan ahead of second TV debate

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Liz Truss taking part in the BBC Tory leadership debate live (PA/Jacob King) (PA Wire)
Liz Truss taking part in the BBC Tory leadership debate live (PA/Jacob King) (PA Wire)

Liz Truss has claimed Rishi Sunak’s plans for the economy would be a “disaster” for homeowners, businesses and workers just hours before the two will clash on TV for the second time in 24 hours.

The Foreign Secretary, who is celebrating her 47th birthday on Tuesday, did not hold back from attacking her former Cabinet colleague, telling Sky News the former chancellor’s tax plans will “put off people who want to invest in Britain”.

When told her economic policy is backed by a minority of economists, Ms Truss insisted her policies are not based “on the number of economists”, adding: “The question is who is right.”

The Tory leadership hopeful was speaking during a campaign event in Sussex, hours before she and the former chancellor will face each other in a TalkTV/Sun event at 6pm.

She was asked about the new IMF world economic update, which implies that not cutting taxes and keeping spending down is the way forward.

Ms Truss told Sky News: “Let’s be clear, his (Rishi Sunak’s) plan is to raise taxes.

“He is planning to raise taxes on corporations, putting our taxes up to the same level as France.

“That is going to put off people who want to invest in Britain. And I know there are masses of opportunities right across the country.

“Less investment will mean fewer jobs, fewer opportunities, lower wages and lower productivity in the future. So it’s cutting off our nose to spite our face.

“The fact is that we promised in our manifesto not to raise national insurance. I thought it was wrong at the time to do so, and that is why I would reverse that.

“I also want to put money into people’s pockets.”

She added: “I could quote the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) who said that our current policy is contractionary.

“And what that means is it will lead to a recession. A recession would be a disaster. It would be a disaster for people who are homeowners. It would be a disaster for people who go out to work. It would be a disaster for people who run businesses.

“That is why I want to keep taxes low, attract the investment, get the growth. That’s the best way to pay down our debt.”

Tax and economic policy has dominated the leadership race so far.

On Monday night, Mr Sunak and Ms Truss trashed each other’s economic plans on the BBC televised debate, while personal attacks continued with Mr Sunak accused by allies of Ms Truss of “mansplaining” during the debate.

Mr Sunak claimed there is “nothing Conservative” about Ms Truss’s approach to cutting taxes and pumping up borrowing, arguing it would give the party “absolutely no chance” of winning the next election.

The Foreign Secretary, in turn, suggested her rival would lead the country into a recession and criticised him for increasing taxes to the “highest rate in 70 years”.

On China, Ms Truss accused her rival of “pushing for closer trade relationships” while Mr Sunak said “Liz has been on a journey” to get to a point where she opposes closer ties.

Mr Sunak also sought to stress his decision to quit Mr Johnson’s government as a sign he acts according to his principles, while Ms Truss stressed her loyalty to her current boss.

But both candidates ruled out a job for Mr Johnson in their cabinet, with Ms Truss saying she believes he “needs a well-earned break” before eventually adding: “I am sure he will have a role, I am sure he will be vocal but he will not be part of the government.”

Mr Sunak was more direct in his reply by saying: “The simple answer for me is no.”

A snap poll by Opinium, based on a sample of 1,032 voters, found 39% believed Mr Sunak had performed best compared to 38% for Ms Truss, but crucially Tory voters split 47% to 38% in favour of the Foreign Secretary.

With postal ballots set to arrive on Tory members’ doorsteps by August 5, Mr Sunak needs good performances in the debates and the early hustings.

Opinion polls and member surveys have suggested that he trails Ms Truss in the battle to win the votes of card-carrying Conservatives, with the Foreign Secretary the bookmakers’ favourite to be elected as Tory leader on September 5.

– The debate will air on the Sun website and TalkTV from 6pm.

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