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Erik de la Reguera: Liz Truss advantage after the first TV duel

When the first televised duel between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss took place on Monday night, the BBC had set her up in the small central England town of Stoke on Trent.

Stoke-on-Trent is an industrial town that has long been considered part of the “red wall” of the Labor Party. But it is now a blue and conservative stronghold. The obvious question was: Will it still be when Boris Johnson leaves the party leadership?

The finalists in the race to succeed him, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, sought to reassure studio audiences from the city that investment in underserved areas of central and northern England would continue.

Truss likes to point out that she went to a regular public school, while Sunak had to go to exclusive private schools.

But they spent most of the time criticizing each other’s economic policies. Rishi Sunak has repeatedly attacked Truss for what he considers “irresponsible” promises of tax cuts. The 42-year-old was finance minister until recently, and warns that tax cuts will now dramatically increase borrowing for the state — at a time of accelerating prices and a generally uncertain international situation.

Your financial advisor said your proposals would drive mortgage rates up to 7 percent. Can you imagine what that means for people in cities like this? Sunak said rhetorically.

Liz Truss quickly replied:

– Rishi Sunak wants to raise the corporate tax to the same level as in France. But we all know that companies in such cities need to attract international investment.

– She added: I hope you are more courageous.

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Rishi Sunak is clearly inspiring by Margaret Thatcher, whose fiscal policy was based on a carefully balanced budget. Liz Truss, 46, also speaks warmly of Thatcher, but sees tax cuts as an engine of growth in a way somewhat reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s economic policy.

Monday night's debate between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss turned into a heated duel.

Monday night’s debate between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss turned into a heated duel.

Photo: Jacob King/AP

The tone of the televised debate was harsh, after the weekend when the fight also took place on social media. Culture Minister Nadine Doris – a Truss supporter – has, for example Compare expensive Sunak suits and Prada shoes With his relatively cheap FM earrings, Truss likes to point out that she went to a regular public school, while Sunak had to go to exclusive private schools.

Sunak replied in the discussion that he was proud that his immigrant parents had been able to provide him with a good education – and they received one of the loudest applause of the evening.

But Liz Truss was a favorite among Tory members before the debate, and the pressure was on Rishi Sunak to win the debate. according to First, quick measurement (Out of a thousand ordinary voters) 39 percent think Senak did his best, and 38 percent think Truss. But among those who typically vote Conservative, 47 percent gave the victory to Liz Truss – and 38 percent to Sunak.

It’s important, because after all, it’s the conservative voters who will decide. And not just any conservative voters. The 160,000 party members are statistically older, whiter, and wealthier, and live to a greater extent in the southern part of the country than in the rest of the population. This of course affects the leadership battle.

It is undeniable that Secretary of State Liz Truss is completely abandoning the economic policy that her government has pursued for two years.

A factor to be reckoned with It is also that Liz Truss, unlike Sunak, was loyal to Boris Johnson and remained in the government. Johnson remains popular with much of the party’s grassroots.

– I’m sure he will have a role in the future. I am convinced that he will be heard in different ways, but he will not be part of the government, said Liz Truss, who stressed that she had long been one of Johnson’s main supporters.

Rishi Sunak has been much quicker to dismiss Johnson’s potential role in government – which he is trying to present as evidence of his desire to “renew”.

The Left Opposition criticizes that a few hundred thousand Conservative Party members are effectively getting a prime minister in a country of 67 million people. But no matter who wins, the opposition will have plenty of interesting quotes to draw from.

It is undeniable that Secretary of State Liz Truss is completely abandoning the economic policy that her government has pursued for two years – while former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak is doing the same with Truss’ proposals, which may become government policy this fall.

Monday’s debate was the first in a series of debates we’re expecting over the next month. In each of the various media, and in the so-called “hearings” with members of the Conservative Party.

It is far from stable. But Liz Truss has the upper hand at the moment.