Both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak’s campaign for Number 10 continues this weekend, with the leadership rivals offering eye-catching policy proposals to entice Tory party members.
The Foreign Secretary has vowed to review all EU laws retained after Brexit by the end of next year in a “red tape bonfire” if she becomes prime minister, and to scrap or replace those that are deemed to hinder UK growth.
Meanwhile Mr Sunak will use a speech in the birthplace of Margaret Thatcher to promise plans to tackle NHS backlogs, driven in part by a so-called “vaccines style” taskforce.
The whittling down of the Tory leadership contenders to just two this week marked the beginning of the next stage of the contest to replace Boris Johnson, with the two candidates now tasked with wooing the grassroots Tory party members who will vote for the next prime minister.
Ms Truss, the former Remainer turned Brexiteer flagbearer, said that if elected she will set a “sunset” deadline for every piece of EU-derived business regulation and assess whether it stimulates domestic growth or investment by the end of 2023.
Industry experts would be tasked to create “better home-grown laws” to replace those that fail the test, if they are not ditched altogether.
Ms Truss said: “As prime minister I will unleash the full potential of Britain post-Brexit, and accelerate plans to get EU law off our statute books so we can boost growth and make the most of our new-found freedoms outside of the EU.”
Meanwhile in the Lincolnshire town of Grantham, Mr Sunak will stress his Thatcherite credentials in a speech in the hometown of the former Conservative prime minister.
Warning against “privatisation by the back door”, he will announce plans to eliminate one-year NHS waiting times six months earlier than planned by September 2024, and to get overall numbers falling by next year.
“Waiting times for everything from major surgery to a visit to the GP are at record levels. Millions of people are waiting for life-saving cancer screening, major surgeries and consultations,” Mr Sunak will say as the campaign to win over Tory party members begins in earnest.
“People shouldn’t have to make a choice with a gun to their head.
“If we do not immediately set in train a radically different approach the NHS will come under unsustainable pressure and break.”
It is a theme that Mr Sunak focuses on in an interview with The Times newspaper, where he says that he would put the UK on a “crisis footing” from his first day as prime minister.
The former chancellor tells the paper that the UK needs to be on a “crisis footing” to deal with inflation and a host of other challenges.
“They’re challenges that are staring us in the face and a business-as-usual mentality isn’t going to cut it in dealing with them. So from day one of being in office I’m going to put us on a crisis footing.
“Having been inside government I think the system just isn’t working as well as it should,” he is quoted as saying.
“And the challenges that I’m talking about, they’re not abstract, they’re not things that are coming long down the track.”
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, a support of Mr Sunak, said the former chancellor had set out a “credible” plan on the economy and on the NHS.
He did not rule out someone from the private sector taking charge of a “vaccines style” taskforce to tackle the NHS backlog, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t think Rishi has set out who that would be. One thing we learned is that you can bring people in, either from across government where we’ve got excellent officials, or people with experience, and particularly the hybrid experience.”
Offering chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance as an example of someone with private and public sector experience, he said: “I think actually, capability matters more than whether you’re public or private sector in this particular context, in order to drive up outcomes for patients.”
In newspaper interviews this weekend, both candidates also double-down on the economic policies that have so far provided the major dividing line of the campaign.
“What I worry about is the inflation we’re seeing now becoming entrenched for longer,” Mr Sunak says.
“That’s the risk we need to guard against. If that happens, it will be incredibly damaging for millions across the UK. The cost for families is going to be enormous.”
He also suggests that the Foreign Secretary’s plans could see interest rates rise, while rejecting the suggestion he is running a so-called “project fear”.
But in an interview with the Telegraph, Ms Truss robustly defended her economic vision.
Describing herself as an “insurgent” who wants to change things, she tells the newspaper that she wants the UK to become a “high growth, high productivity, powerhouse”.
On her plan to bring down in inflation, she tells the paper: “I believe it is right that inflation will come down because inflation was caused by a global supply shock. But it was exacerbated by monetary policy. What I have said is in the future I’m going to look at the Bank of England’s mandate. It is set by the Treasury. It was last set by Gordon Brown in 1997.”
Pressed on her thinking on the Bank of England’s mandate, she says: “What I want to do is look at best practice from central banks around the world, look at their mandates, and make sure we have a tight enough focus on the money supply and on inflation.”
– Mr Sunak, who supports the current Government policy on Rwanda and asylum claims, told the Times he would announce his own plans to tackle illegal migration next week.
– Ms Truss described her reaction to getting through the ballot, overtaking rival Penny Mordaunt to do so. “I yelped with delight,” she told the Telegraph. “There was lots of hugging and back-slapping.”
– A new poll by Savanta ComRes for the Daily Express gives Labour an 11-point lead over the Conservatives, with Sir Keir Starmer’s party on 44% compared to the Conservatives’ 33%.
Both candidates also reveal the effect of the campaign so far on their families and how it is impacting those closest to them.
“My oldest daughter’s working on the digital team,” Ms Truss told the Telegraph.
“She’s done a computing GCSE so she’s helping out on that. And my younger daughter was there as well, giving general political advice.”
Mr Sunak also tells the Times: “Family is core to who I am. I miss them a lot right, they are in Yorkshire and I am here. We’re on video every day. But it’s not the same but they’re used to that.”
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