Campaign Update: Liz Rules Out 2023 Election, Rishi Wins in Cheltenham

Good Friday morning. There are 22 days left of the Tory leadership campaign.

Cheltenham Husting Performance

  • Rishi seemed to win the night at a southern, LibDem-facing hustings in Cheltenham
  • Among the headlines made by Liz were:
    • Profit is not a dirty word, and appeared to rule out any future windfall tax on energy giants
    • Unequivocally ruled out an election before 2024
    • Liz will review utility regulators to ensure they’re fit for purpose in the 21st century and able to promote competition
    • Launched a renewed attack on Darlington husting host Tom Newton Dunn, specifying her media jibes were aimed at him personally for asking ‘unsound questions’ and not at the rest of the press
    • Said there is more gas in the North Sea that the UK can get on stream “pretty quickly”

In other news:

  • Today has been the quietest in ages for blue-on-blue briefings by each candidate’s team. Guido received nothing from either campaign team bar a jibe from Team Liz against Rishi’s new hosepipe policy. Read below…

Today’s new policy:

  • Less detailed than his new drought policy below, though more significant, is an op-ed in The Times today, in which he puts a number on the support he’ll give on energy bills this October: £10 billion
  • This figure is 50% of his already-announced VAT abolition on energy bills, coming in at £5 billion
  • He specifies he will find another £5 billion on top of this for additional support
  • “I can’t say to the pound and penny what help will be available because we don’t yet know the precise scale of the challenge. but I give you my assurance that as soon as we do, I will. And I will do as much as I can to help.”
  • As well as his previously announced “efficiency savings” he suggests other government projects may need to be put on pause to pay for the additional support, though he’s also prepared to consider “some limited and temporary, one-off borrowing as a last resort to get us through this winter”.

Also:

  • Rishi focuses on the zeitgeisty “boosting our resilience to drought” today, following some of the driest conditions in England since 1935
  • Rishi’s plan includes:
    • Holding water companies to account for unacceptable leakage and mains bursts. By encouraging OFWAT to use existing enforcement powers more aggressively.
    • Working with farmers to support them to invest in water management and protect their harvest. By reviewing grants put in place after Brexit to “ensure that these are incentivising the proper storage of water”.
    • Building the resilience of our water infrastructure. Fast-tracking approvals to alter existing reservoirs and water recycling facilities and for new projects.
  • Team Liz accused Rishi’s press release of hypocrisy in saying hosepipe bans are disruptive to consumers, pointing to the previous Sunday Telegraph when he was reported to be backing George Eustice’s hosepipe ban:

“It comes after George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, called in The Sunday Telegraph for more water companies to introduce urgent restrictions.

Leadership contender Rishi Sunak is understood to be supportive of the position, while his rival Liz Truss is not.”

Hustings performance:

  • Not only did Rishi sound like he won the room, the Telegraph liveblog conducted a poll that received over 73,000 votes. Rishi comfortably won it as well. Guido is a little sceptical that there were 73,000 voters.

  • We didn’t get many headlines from Rishi, bar revealing Boris hasn’t picked up his calls since resigning. Hardly a shock…
  • He also accused Liz of being the one who bows to Treasury consensus, citing her time as Chief Secretary. He says he’s the one who didn’t and is keen to push more orthodoxy-breaking as PM

Bookies Odds (Previous in Brackets):

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

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