UK Prime Minister candidates clash over tax cuts in TV debate

  • Five challenges to succeed Boris Johnson as British Prime Minister
  • Second of three TV debates on Sunday
  • Tax plans at the heart of heated battle
  • Opinion polls show conflicting picture of who wins

LONDON, July 17 (Reuters) – The five Conservative candidates still vying to become Britain’s next prime minister clashed on Sunday over tax cuts in a second televised debate that saw the two frontrunners – Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss – give up their votes. battle against the economy.

With no clear candidate to replace Boris Johnson, who is stepping down after a string of scandals, the battle to become the next leader remains unpredictable and increasingly fierce, exposing rifts in the ruling Conservative party.

Ex-treasury minister Rishi Sunak has emerged as the favorite among the 358 conservative lawmakers, who will hold even more votes this week to narrow the field to a final two.

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He said Sunday night his top priority would be to tackle inflation and not make it worse before enacting tax cuts.

Secretary of State Liz Truss, who has proposed plans to abolish payroll and corporate tax hikes at more than £30 billion ($36 billion) a year, said Sunak has pushed taxes to the highest level in 70 years. had increased.

“Raising taxes at this point will stifle economic growth,” she said in the debate hosted by broadcaster ITV.

Sunak replied by saying that he would “be happy to lower taxes”, but that this would come at the cost of higher inflation. “This something-for-nothing economy isn’t conservative, it’s socialism,” he said.

Deputy Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who is currently in third place, also targeted Sunak, saying the public needs “immediate action” to tackle the rising cost of living.

RACE STILL OPEN

A JL Partners poll for the Sunday Telegraph suggested that nearly half of Conservative voters thought Sunak would make a good prime minister, ahead of Truss and Mordaunt.

However, Truss also has broad support, including from those most loyal to Johnson, and Mordaunt has surpassed polls of the 200,000 party members who will ultimately choose the Conservative leader and thus Prime Minister.

In a demonstration of how open the race is, a survey of party members for the Conservative Home website on Saturday suggested that former Equal Opportunities Minister Kemi Badenoch was now ahead of the others, with Truss in second place and Mordaunt, currently the favourite. from the bookmakers, to third.

That came after the fifth candidate, Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, topped a viewership poll after Friday’s first TV debate.

Whoever gets the job will take on skyrocketing inflation and low economic growth, as well as the public’s lack of confidence in politics after Johnson’s scandal-ridden time in power.

Opinion polls also suggest that the Conservatives are significantly behind the opposition Labor party.

When asked by the moderator, all candidates said they would not hold an immediate election if they won. There are no national elections to be held in Great Britain until 2024.

For the next three days, one candidate will be eliminated each day, leaving two for the discretion of members of the Conservative Party. They will vote for the winner to be announced on September 5.

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Reporting by Michael Holden and Paul Sandle; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Gareth Jones

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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