Rishi Sunak faces two major opponents in battle to PM
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The former Chancellor of the Exchequer is currently the frontrunner in the Tory leadership race after receiving the support of 47 Conservative MPs. Among them is the Tory MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, Helen Whately who spoke about her reasons for backing Mr Sunak on Newsnight.
Currently the ex-chancellor faces eight opponents who all managed to get the support of at least 20 MPs which was necessary to see them through the first ballot.
Alongside Mr Sunak, the other candidates for Tory leader are, Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, former Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch, Jeremy Hunt and Attorney General Suella Braverman.
Speaking on Newsnight, Ms Whately said: “My experience of working with Rishi in the Treasury is that he thinks about things very hard, he really gets a grip of the detail, he has very sound judgement and he is not afraid of making difficult decisions.”
In his video which announced his leadership bid, Mr Sunak vowed to be stern and realistic in his policies and to not tell “fairy tales” like his opponents.
The former Chancellor said: “Do we confront this moment with honesty, seriousness and determination, or do we tell ourselves comforting fairy tales that might make us feel better in the moment but will leave our children worse off tomorrow?”
Unlike other big contenders, such as Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt, Mr Sunak has not promised to cut taxes and has gone so far as to say that he will not do so in the current economic climate while inflation is soaring.
Speaking to the Telegraph Sunak said: “We will cut taxes, as I said, and we will do it responsibly.
“That’s my economic approach.”
The Foreign Secretary vowed to scrap the increase to National Insurance and to cut taxes “from day one” to help households struggling with the cost of living.
Ms Whately supports Sunak’s realism and said: “We saw that with how he handled the situations in the pandemic, how he very rapidly for instance brought in the furlough scheme when there was the prospect of lockdown of so many people potentially being made redundant and becoming unemployed.
“So, that’s an example of the way he takes a grip of a problem and really takes it on.”
On Newsnight, the MP was asked about Rishi Sunak’s stance on the Northern Ireland Protocol and Brexit negotiations which have been repeatedly hampered in recent times.
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The MP for Faversham and Mid Kent replied: “I’m not going to get drawn on the policies that he may need but what I would say is what we know about Rishi is he’s a Brexit-backer that from the very beginning was absolutely committed to delivering Brexit.”
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab featured in Mr Sunak’s ‘Ready4Rishi’ launch and used Sunak’s actions during the Brexit referendum in 2016 as reason to back the former Chancellor.
Mr Raab said: “I remember back when we had the referendum in 2016, he was one of the first ones out of the traps – as a young, new Member of Parliament, a backbencher – with all of the pressure on his at the time, he immediately put his colours to the mast and not just that, he immediately started thinking about how we could grasp the opportunities of Brexit.”
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