Rival Tory campaigns clash over policy U-turns

The Foreign Secretary was accused of “make-it-up-as-we-go-along politics” by MPs supporting Rishi Sunak after reversing proposals on public sector pay cuts, while the former Chancellor was criticised for backtracking on tax cut plans.

Ms Truss earlier this week said she would save £8.8 billion by introducing regional pay boards instead of national ones to set civil servant salaries, reflecting where they lived.

Experts warned that to hit the proposed savings the plan would see cuts to wages for teachers, nurses, and police officers living outside London and the south East.

Following outrage from northern MPs, her team last night released a statement saying the policy would not be taken forward.

Former Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis, who is backing Ms Truss for Prime Minister, said “there was never any risk to the pay of the brilliant public sector”.

Asked about the Truss campaign abandoning the flagship policy, he told Times Radio: “You do see during leadership campaigns obviously people putting out ideas — we’ve seen Rishi Sunak’s team have put out eight or nine different things that they’ve changed around.

“The reality of yesterday is, what Liz was outlining was part of a package of dealing with Whitehall waste. We all want to see that dealt with.

“What Liz was looking at yesterday and what the campaign was looking at is what you do in new contracts as

people come in, but… she made it very clear yesterday, we’re not taking this forward.”

However, chairman of the Northern Ireland Select Committee Simon Hoare said the policy was “very clear” as he branded Ms Truss “out of touch”.

He added: “It’s worth my fellow Conservatives thinking what the headlines would be if yesterday’s proposal had been in a general election campaign. Electorally we can’t afford ‘make-it-up-as-we-go-along’ politics. We’d be trussed and roasted.”

A YouGov poll of Conservative members yesterday showed Ms Truss has extended her lead over Mr Sunak to 34 points in the race to replace Boris Johnson.

The survey, carried out for The Times, found that 60 per cent of party members backed her to be leader.

Polling expert Professor Sir John Curtice, from the University of Strathclyde, told Times Radio Ms Truss’s tactics of appealing to the right of the Tory party was proving popular with members.

He said: “One of the things that has emerged in numerous polls is — at the end of the day — a lot of Conservative members just simply do not trust Mr Sunak.

“I think that’s a combination of concerns about his wife’s non-dom status and also… his fundamental problem, which is he tells us that he’s an instinctive tax cutter, but of course, for good or ill as chancellor, he has presided over an increase in taxation, and that is something which causes angst within large sections of the Conservative Party.”

However Tory MP David Davis, who is also supporting Mr Sunak, said the polls were conducted before Ms Truss’ U-turn on public sector pay, which the Foreign Secretary’s team had not “thought through”.

“I think the public will come to a view on judgment on that,” he told Sky News. “It’s very, very important in this process.

“This is a dress rehearsal for being a prime minister. You can’t afford to make those sorts of judgmental errors.”

He also defended Mr Sunak’s pledge to slash taxes by 20 per cent by the end of the decade and cut VAT on energy bills after the rival campaign branded the promise “another U-turn”. The policies were rejected by Mr Sunak when he was in charge of the Treasury.

Mr Davis said: “What you’ve got to do is think it through carefully. There’s a lot of mathematics to do in this.”


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.