Rishi Sunak ‘aggressive’ in Tory leadership debate, say Truss supporters | Conservative leadership

A Treasury minister has said his former boss Rishi Sunak took an “extremely aggressive” approach in the Conservative leadership debate with Liz Truss, after allies of Truss accused him of “mansplaining”.

Simon Clarke, the chief secretary to the Treasury who is backing Truss, said Sunak was “certainly extremely aggressive” in parts of the debate. “It was a pretty intense approach to the early parts of the debate last night,” he told LBC.

But the former cabinet minister David Davis defended Sunak, saying he gave sound warnings on the economy.

The two Conservative leadership hopefuls traded blows at the BBC debate over tax cuts, China and inflation, with the former chancellor Sunak accusing the foreign secretary of seeking “a short-term sugar rush” by cutting national insurance.

Truss accused her former cabinet colleague of raising taxes to their highest level for 70 years.

The exchanges at the BBC debate followed a weekend of deeply personal attacks, with Sunak criticised over his wealth and wardrobe while Truss faced claims she was economically illiterate and was reminded that she was formerly a remainer.

Davis repeated warnings made by Sunak that Truss’s economic policies could push up mortgage rates. “I think you’ve got to win the arguments, and the arguments that matter, which is why the 7% matters,” he told Sky News, referring to the argument made by Truss’s economic adviser Patrick Minford for a 7% base interest rate, which could push up mortgage rates.

“That’s why that matters. It’s very important. The Tory party, generally speaking, is a bit older than average. It’s a little bit more middle class, but not so much these days, but a little bit more middle class. It will care about things like their offspring having to face these sorts of interest rates in the future, so that matters.”

He defended Sunak’s style of interrupting Truss. “Sometimes it’s important to intervene in debates,” he said. “When we’re in the Commons we have these comparatively fierce exchanges lots of times, all the time.”

Davis added: “This is a debate to find the prime minister of this country. Facing a time when the decisions are going to be really tough … We need the person who a) knows what he stands for, b) is courageous enough to take the difficult decisions and c) is determined enough to do it. And that’s Rishi Sunak.”

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Clarke told Times Radio that Truss believed that low taxes would be the route to growth. “Crucially we have to go to the heart of this question. Do you believe the tax cuts grow the size of the economy? Do you believe that they are in themselves something which can create more fiscal space by growing the underlying economy?” he told Times Radio.

“The answer to that as a Conservative must be yes. And that is the point that Liz is making. We’ve got to break with the orthodoxies which have frankly held us back for too long. And we got to get back to the principles which drove the Thatcher government, which is a lower tax economy is a good in its own right, and that is what Liz is pressing.”

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