Tory leadership candidates clash over cost of living during second TV debate

ITV hosted a second television debate with the contenders to succeed Boris Johnson as the country’s next prime minister.

Tory leadership candidates clash over cost of living during second TV debate

Rishi Sunak engaged in more furious exchanges with Tory leadership rivals Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt as the contenders to succeed Boris Johnson faced off in a second televised debate.

The former chancellor accused Ms Truss of peddling “something-for-nothing” economics after she said he was choking off growth by raising taxes to their highest level in 70 years.

Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Tom Tugendhat and Penny Mordaunt taking part in Britain’s Next Prime Minister: The ITV Debate, a head-to-head debate between Conservative party leadership candidates
Rishi Sunak, left to right, Liz Truss, Kemi Badenoch – behind host Julie Etchingham – Tom Tugendhat and Penny Mordaunt taking part in Britain’s Next Prime Minister: The ITV Debate (Jonathan Hordle/ITV Handout/PA)

“Rishi, you have raised taxes to the highest level in 70 years. That is not going to drive economic growth,” she said.

“You raised national insurance, even though people like me opposed it in Cabinet at the time because we could have afforded to fund the NHS through general taxation.

“The fact is that raising taxes at this moment will choke off economic growth; it will prevent us getting the revenue we need to pay off the debt.”

Mr Sunak said the pandemic damaged the economy and public finances had to be rebuilt.

“I’d love to stand here and say, ‘Look, I’ll cut this tax, that tax and another tax and it will all be OK.’ But you know what? It won’t,” he said.

Rishi Sunak
The former chancellor accused Ms Truss of peddling ‘something-for-nothing’ economics (Jonathan Hordle/ITV Handout/PA)

Ms Mordaunt said the limited tax cuts she advocated were not inflationary and people need help now with the cost of living.

“I don’t understand why Rishi doesn’t understand that,” she said.

Mr Sunak said: “It is one thing to borrow for long-term investment. It is a whole other thing to put the day-to-day bills on the country’s credit card. It is not just wrong, it is dangerous.

“Even Jeremy Corbyn didn’t go that far.”

Mr Sunak added: “If we are not for sound money, what is the point of the Conservative Party?”

Penny Mordaunt
Penny Mordaunt told her leadership rivals ‘all attempts to paint me as an out-of-touch individual will fail’ (Jonathan Hordle/ITV Handout/PA)

Following further reports in the press casting doubts on her denials, Ms Mordaunt said: “I know why this is being done but I would say all attempts to paint me as an out of touch individual will fail.”

Ms Badenoch repeatedly tried to interrupt, saying: “Penny, I was just telling the truth. I am telling the truth.”

“I certainly don’t believe in that kind of campaign. It is not the kind of campaign I am fighting. I am fighting a positive campaign about the future,” she said.

Conservative leadership bid
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss clashed again over the economy (Jonathan Hordle/ITV/PA)

Tom Tugendhat, who was fifth in the second round, sought to make a virtue of the fact that he alone of the remaining contenders had not served in government.

He said those who had been ministers under Boris Johnson “lent credibility to the chaos” which made it difficult for the Conservatives to win the next general election.

“Whatever your responsibility was in that government, whatever your place in that government was, Keir Starmer in two years’ time is going to hold that record against us,” he said.

“We need to make sure we’re winning Conservative seats across the country, and even really good people lend credibility to the chaos.”

Kemi Badenoch, Tom Tugendhat and Penny Mordaunt in the TV debatec
Kemi Badenoch, Tom Tugendhat and Penny Mordaunt in the TV debate (Jonathan Hordle/ITV/PA)

“Serving in government is not easy. It requires taking difficult decisions. Tom has never done that. It’s very easy for him to criticise what we’ve been doing, but we have been out there on the front line making the case,” she said.

Mr Tugendhat retorted that, as a former Army officer, he had been on the front line in Afghanistan and Iraq and had led “in the argument against Putin and China”.

She responded: “You haven’t taken any decisions, talking is easy.”

But asked by presenter Julie Etchingham to put their hands up if they would give Mr Johnson a job in the their government if he was willing to serve, none of them did so.

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