Liz Truss appeared for months as the favorite to succeed Boris Johnson, propelled as Foreign Secretary and with a self-promotional campaign on networks that earned her the nickname “Margaret Thatcher wannabe”. Johnson’s resignation caught her on the wrong foot at the G-20 summit in Asia: she arrived at the starting grid with ‘jet lag’ and the lack of support in Parliament now threatens to put her out of action.
Truss was third again (64 votes), behind former Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak (101) and former Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt (83), in the second round of Conservative candidates. The new screening served to eliminate the most far-right candidate, Attorney General Suella Braverman, who came to defend the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Convention on Human Rights on Thursday.
The moderate Tom Tugendhat (32) and the deputy with Nigerian blood Kemi Badenoch (49), turned into a heroine of the “cultural war” of the right, are also still in contention although more lagging behind.
Five candidates therefore face the final stretch of the contest, with the first television debate scheduled for Sunday on ITV. Liz Truss will play there to be her or not to be, before the questioning of the deputies on “super Monday” and face the final votes between Tuesday and Wednesday.
In view of the results of the second vote, the Foreign Secretary will be forced to make concessions to the hard wing of the party if she aspires to win support in the final stretch. Defender in his day the permanence in the EU, although reconverted to the extreme Brexit with his impulse to the law of the Ireland Protocol, has only won the support of ministers ultra-loyal to Johnson, such as the Brexit Opportunities Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.
Her campaign, “Liz for Leader,” was the latest to grab headlines on Thursday as the vote counted down. Truss presented herself as “the only one prepared to be Prime Minister from day one” (versus Mordaunt’s “inexperience”) and as the applicant from humble beginnings (versus Sunak’s wealth).
“My mission is to make our country the nation of aspirations,” he said at the time of his introduction, vaguely promising “not to let any child go through the disappointment of low expectations.”
“I am a loyal person,” he declared at the time of marking distances with the resigning Sunak and bringing the ember to Boris Johnson in international politics: “I plan to continue leading the free world and in opposition to Putin.”
Truss, however, distanced himself from the economic policy of his own government and reiterated his promise of a tax cut and a boost to productivity: “We cannot continue with the same economic management when we have had slow growth for decades.”
The more moderate candidate, Tom Tugendhat, promised to “continue the fight” and reminded the ‘Tory’ deputies and militants: “Keep in mind that the leader who is elected in this process has to be someone capable of defending the ideas and Conservative values in the 2024 election”.
From Scotland, meanwhile, at the presentation of the second document for the new campaign for the independence referendum, the chief minister Nicola Sturgeon sounded the alarm about what is coming: “The change of leader in the Tories is going to be accompanied by a further shift to the right. That means an ever-increasing departure from Scots views and values.”
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