Campaign Update: Blue-on-Blue Briefing War Bubbles Over

Good Thursday morning. There are 23 days left of the Tory leadership campaign.

“The People’s Forum”:

  • Last night Liz faced a GB News audience in Leigh, fielding questions on tax, energy, inflation, and the cost of living. It was a small crowd and, with no Rishi in sight, a pretty tame affair overall. That said, there were a few headlines...
  • Liz promised to reassess the Online Safety Bill so that adults can “speak freely” and “say the same thing online as offline.” A major intervention that will have huge consequences for the Bill. Someone tell Nadine…
  • She appeared to confirm she’ll offer Kemi Badenoch a spot at the Cabinet table if elected. The first time she’s offered a Cabinet job during the campaign.
  • She also reiterated her intention to look at how low income households can be supported this winter beyond tax cuts, adding she will look at the benefits system to ensure “we are not penalising” those on low wages, such as carers.
  • One uncomfortable moment came when a WASPI woman in the audience asked if she’d revisit the pension scandal, with Liz saying that while she “[didn’t] think it was handled well… I don’t think we can go back.

Briefing War:

  • Away from the glare of the GB News cameras, Liz’s team spent the day tearing chunks out of Camp Rishi on her behalf. After Rishi attacked Liz’s cost of living plan for being “clear as mud“, Team Truss went nuclear: “Rishi Sunak wouldn’t know how people benefit from a tax cut because he has never cut a tax in his life.
    People didn’t vote for the Conservative Party to be subjected to old fashioned Gordon Brown style politics of envy.” Team Rishi inevitably responded in kind – see below…
  • The mudslinging didn’t stop there: Kwasi Kwarteng and Simon Clarke have an article in the Telegraph today in which they claim Rishi “dug his heels in” as Chancellor over post-Brexit reforms, particularly on plans to ditch the EU’s Solvency II rule and reform the NI Protocol. You’d be forgiven for forgetting they’re all in the same party. Team Rishi insist the claims in the article are “categorically untrue”, and Sunak backed a muscular approach to Brussels all along…

Briefing War… Part 2:

  • Rishi didn’t take kindly to Team Liz’s attacks – it turns out being compared to Gordon Brown doesn’t exactly flatter him. His team countered by claiming Liz’s backtrack on regional pay boards last week was “a serious moral and political misjudgement affecting millions of people“. This is the same Liz Truss whom Rishi has claimed he’ll serve under in any Cabinet role.
  • His campaign also sent out a dubious press release claiming he’d cut taxes “16 times during and following the pandemic“. One of those ‘cuts’ was reducing the Universal Credit taper rate, another is the promise to cut income tax by 1p in 2024 which, last time Guido checked, is two years away…

In the hot seat:

  • Shortly after Liz’s appearance on GB News, Rishi sat down with Nick Robinson for the BBC.
  • He came the closest yet to admitting the race may well be over, claiming he’d always “stay true to [his] values” and he would rather lose than “win on a false promise”.
  • He also promised to do more for households this winter beyond the package already announced, although didn’t go into specific details on the basis that it was simply too early. Although when asked whether it would cost “a few billion” or more than £10 billion, he said it would be “closer to the former than the latter”…

Bookies Odds (Previous in Brackets):

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

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