Campaign Update: Cost of Living Battle Lines Drawn

Good Monday morning. There are 26 days left of the Tory leadership campaign.

  • No new announcements from Liz going into this morning
  • Liz goes into this week following some mixed messaging about future energy support she may make available heading into the winter. On Friday the FT published a wide-ranging interview with her, in which they reported:

“Asked how she intended to help households facing spiralling fuel bills this winter — the energy price cap could rise by more than £2,000 in less than a year — Truss insisted the answer was tax cuts and supply side reforms.

“Of course I will look at what more can be done,” she said. “But the way I would do things is in a Conservative way of lowering the tax burden, not giving out handouts.”

  • Arguably this shouldn’t have been read this as a complete ruling out of further help, just a statement of primary principles. Unfortunately for Team Liz the FT ran with the headline, “Truss rejects ‘handouts’ in favour of tax cuts to help households”, implying no additional support will be made available.
  • Team Rishi took it and ran with it, telling hacks, “Liz Truss needs to explain to the millions of people worried about rising bills in the Autumn whether she stands by the statement she gave Friday ruling out further support payments or has now changed her mind and is willing to consider them.”
  • Yesterday Penny Mordaunt said Liz is not ruling out emergency payments, and to say so was “overinterpreting” what she’s previously said.

Also:

  • Liz has committed to boosting the role of the party chairman within Cabinet if elected, and hinted she may be open to allowing members a say on the office holder
  • While this could be seen exclusively as a red meat policy for members, it could also see in the context of rumours Priti Patel is facing a move into the role in Liz’s first reshuffle. Boosting its prominence and responsibilities could be a way of sweetening the demotion.

  • Rishi’s team threw everything at the Sunday Times this weekend, with a big interview and a pledge to spend billions more to ease cost of living crisis. Some continue to question why Rishi believes Liz’s tax cuts will be inflationary while billions more in government spending won’t be…
  • Rishi says he will absolutely “go further” than the up-to £1,200 support package already promised once there is “certainty about exactly what bills are going to be in the autumn”, promising to focus particularly on families and pensioners.
  • Rishi backer Mel Stride, chair of the Treasury select committee, has said cutting taxes to deal with the cost of living is “not credible” given pensioners and those on the lowest salaries would not significantly benefit. He adds: “The country needs a serious PM who doesn’t make it up as it goes along.”
  • Nadhim Zahawi is reportedly drawing up different policy options for the next PM for when they take office in September
  • In Rishi’s Sunday Times interview he also pledged:
    • A shake-up of A-levels if he became prime minister, forcing every pupil to keep studying English and maths until 18.
    • To create 75 free schools.
    • He will “absolutely not” quit politics if he loses the election
    • To keep “love bombing” Tory voters during the contest
  • He apparently opened his interview with a rendition of Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby rap, the tapes of which must be put into the public domain.

Bookies Odds (Previous in Brackets):

  • Liz Truss 1/16 (1/12)
  • Rishi Sunak 13/2 (11/2)

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