Campaign Update: Across the Irish Sea

Good Wednesday morning. There are 17 days left of the Tory leadership campaign.

Today the two candidates hop over the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland after their jaunt in Scotland. Hopefully they’ll be welcomed more warmly than the Tory member who got egged by hard-left nationalists protesting outside last night’s Perth venue. Ahead of their welcome, the two sparring partners have been preempted in true Belfast style: with a mural depicting them as caricature boxers…

Due to the lack of any real Tory membership in Northern Ireland, today’s husting will be shorter and take a slightly different format of remarks followed by a 20 minutes Q&A for each candidate. 20 minutes should be about enough time to sort out all the problems in Northern Ireland, surely…

Today’s new policy:

  • Nope. Guido hears Liz has no intentions to release any further policies until September 5th, bar re-emphasising those frontloaded over the previous weeks. Provided no new national crises, that should make writing these updates a tad easier…

Husting performance:

  • Both Liz and Rishi did well last night given the most Paxman-esque interrogations by a husting host so far, courtesy of STV political editor Colin Mackay
  • Both got huge rounds of applause in their rebuking of Sturgeon, her government’s record and opposition to a second independence referendum
  • Here Liz has a particularly strong leg to stand on. Mackay’s probing of why it’s ok for her to change her mind on Brexit, but not Scots on independence, saw Liz gently point out the key difference: her change of mind involved respecting a democratic mandate.

In other news:

  • Pippa Crerar’s obviously been holding back an exclusive to use during her first week as Guardian pol-ed. Yesterday evening she released a recording of Liz Truss made when she was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in which she is heard suggesting the UK’s sluggish productivity is down to British workers lacking the “graft” of their foreign rivals
  • Asked about the leak during last night’s husting, Liz said “The point that I’ve always made is what we need in this country is more productivity across the country and we need more economic growth.”
  • Today’s Express splashes with Liz Truss triggering legal action against the EU after it blocked “vital scientific cooperation” by refusing to finalise access to key scientific programmes, including Horizon.
  • Yesterday morning Guido scooped that 11 current and former whips were breaking en masse to back Liz, despite almost all their ex-Chief Whip bosses going for Rishi.
  • Meanwhile, Welsh Tories were less impressed with Alun Cairns’s defection from Rishi to Liz, labelling the move as “a selfish, careerist leap for the bandwagon.”

Husting performance:

  • Rishi, like Liz, won plaudits from Tory members by going for the low-hanging fruit of attacking Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.
  • One particularly large round of applause for Rishi, that stuck in Guido’s mind, was when he accused Sturgeon’s government of imposing “austerity” on Scotland, despite the Treasury giving billions more to Sturgeon in Barnett consequentials.

“I tell you why this was so frustrating to me. In the middle of the pandemic whenever I was engaging with Scottish media or civil society… The number of people who seemed to think furlough was because of Nicola Sturgeon.

I did a spending review for the UK which sent £4.5bn of Barnett to the Scottish government and then Kate Forbes finally stood up and did her spending review and we were finally able to see the decisions they made.”

“She’s imposed austerity on all those parts of public services and yes, I have put an income tax cut in.”

  • Rishi also won applause for his new policy of holding Holyrood to account, and ending the current Whitehall policy of “devolve and forget”.
  • He also ruled out copying Labour’s plan to freeze the energy cap, saying “I don’t think that’s the right approach”

Bookies Odds (Previous in Brackets):

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

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