‘No backroom deals’: Liz Truss supporters are urging rival camps not to ‘lend’ votes to influence the vote that will decide the final two in the neck-and-neck race for Tory leadership
- Liz Truss’s allies urged Sunak’s camp not to engage in “dirty backroom deals.”
- The foreign minister benefited from a large increase in support in the last ballot
- It is rumored that Sunak’s supporters may be conspiring in favor of Penny Mordaunt
- A former minister suggested Sunak would rather take action against Penny Mordaunt
That foreign minister enjoyed a surge in support in yesterday’s penultimate election to lead Conservative MPs.
But her supporters fear the former chancellor’s team could try to ‘fix’ the final vote today to ensure he doesn’t face a Tory right-wing candidate in the runoff decided by party members.
They say she has the momentum to reach the final two against Mr Sunak after accumulating 15 votes and closing the gap yesterday Penny Mordaunt to just six. And they pointed to a YouGov poll showing she would beat Mr Sunak – head to head – by a comfortable margin of 54:35.
A former minister also suggested that Mr Sunak, whom he supports, would rather face Miss Mordaunt. “Rishi vs. Liz will be the most feared match,” said Chris Skidmore. “It will be a battle for ideas, a battle of personalities.”
Liz Truss enjoyed a surge in support in yesterday’s penultimate leadership election, but her supporters fear Rishi Sunak’s camp may conspire to “borrow” votes to eliminate her
An ally of Miss Truss said her team is working flat out to secure every vote, adding: “The Tory party is fed up with macho politics in dirty backroom deals. We don’t want to see that again tomorrow.”
Another source said Miss Truss is “in the driver’s seat” although “there is still work to be done”.
Yesterday’s vote left underdog Kemi Badenoch as a potential kingmaker after she was KO’d. Rival candidates fought for crucial support from their 59 supporters.
The scramble came as:
- Tory shop steward Sir Graham Brady outlined contingency plans for another vote tomorrow should today’s nerve-wracking vote end in a tie;
- Boris Johnson exposed the whip to former Defense Secretary and Mordaunt supporter Tobias Ellwood after missing a no-confidence vote in the government;
- Ukraine’s foreign minister praised Miss Truss’ “inner steel”;
- Rumors swirled around Westminster that Michael Gove had been offered the post of Chancellor because he had supported Mr Sunak;
- The BBC revealed plans for a televised debate between the final two candidates next week;
- Miss Truss pledged to raise defense spending to 3 percent of GDP – well above the NATO target of 2 percent;
- Miss Mordaunt found herself embroiled in her own department after trying to expedite the announcement of a trade agreement she had been working on;
- Labor rubbed salt in Tory wounds by publishing a slick attacking advert consisting entirely of ‘blue on blue’ sleigh rides by Conservative leaders in televised debates;
- Boris Johnson was preparing for his final appearance in the House of Commons as Prime Minister today.
Ms Badenoch is on the Tory right and the Foreign Secretary’s team believe at least 22 of her supporters are sympathetic to the Miss Truss cause.
In an early sign of success, Defense Secretary Leo Docherty made the switch from Ms Badenoch to Miss Truss last night, saying: “I have seen firsthand her deep experience and sound judgment and I know she has a credible plan.”
A former minister suggested Mr Sunak would rather face Miss Mordaunt in the final round of the competition to become the next Tory leader
Mr Sunak’s team has denied accusations that they are plotting “dirty backroom deals” to squeeze Miss Truss out and get Miss Mordaunt into the finals head-to-head
A Truss campaign spokesman said: “Now is the time for the party to unite behind a candidate who will govern in a conservative manner and who has shown he can deliver time and time again.
“Liz has a bold new economic agenda that will address the cost of living crisis immediately, spur economic growth and continue to lead the global fight for freedom in Ukraine.”
However, the contest has been overshadowed by fears it could be undermined by “vote-bending” between opposing teams, with suspicion centered on Mr Sunak’s campaign aide Gavin Williamson. Mr Sunak’s team deny underhanded tactics – and insist Sir Gavin has no formal role.
But senior Tories said yesterday Mr Sunak’s supporters were making a “concerted effort” to block the foreign secretary’s chances.
Tory MP Steve Baker, a supporter of Truss, said he believes individual MPs “occasionally vote tactically – which they are entitled to” rather than deal.
Another Conservative MP said: “I think there is a concerted effort to ensure that Rishi does not face Liz in the final.”
But former Cabinet Secretary David Davis accused Mr Sunak of helping Miss Truss to wring Miss Mordaunt out.
“There has clearly been some voice transmissions, presumably from Rishi to Liz,” he told LBC radio. “Rishi just redistributed some. He has his four or five main whips that he has in a boiler room to reassign. He wants to fight Liz because she is the person who will lose the debate with him.’
A Sunak-supporting MP denied wrongdoing and said: “We encourage any colleague who wants Rishi to win to vote for him.”
Yesterday’s result left the competition finely balanced, with Mr Sunak gaining just three supporters after the moderate Tom Tugendhat’s votes were redistributed. That put him at 118, well ahead of Miss Mordaunt, who rallied votes to rise to 92 while Miss Truss closed the gap to 86.