Voting begins in UK PM contest
Conservative front-runner Truss wins key cabinet backing
Published: Aug 01, 2022 09:02 PM
British Conservative front-runner Liz Truss won another heavyweight endorsement on Monday as Tory members began a month of voting to decide the next occupant of 10 Downing Street.

Truss' lagging rival Rishi ­Sunak vied to make up lost ground with a plan for future tax cuts - and potentially to fund a future women's football World Cup in Britain after England's "Lionesses" won the ­European championship.

Truss attended Sunday's final against Germany, and the first victory by any England football team in a major tournament since 1966 wiped ­Sunak's long-term tax slashing plan off all the front pages except The Daily Telegraph.

The Conservative party contenders went head to head later Monday in a members' hustings, in the southwestern city of Exeter - the second of 12 such events before the winner is announced on September 5.

Sunak, a polished debater, needs to recapture momentum after Truss steamed into a strong polling lead on a platform of immediate tax cuts to address Britain's worst cost-of-living crisis in generations.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi joined other luminaries of Boris Johnson's cabinet in backing the foreign secretary against Sunak, his predecessor in the Treasury.

"Liz understands that the status quo isn't an option in times of crisis," Zahawi wrote in the Telegraph, attacking Sunak's plan to prioritize fighting inflation now, before cutting taxes later.

"We need a 'booster' attitude to the economy, not a 'doomster' one, in order to address cost-of-living woes and the challenges on the world stage," the new chancellor said.

Sunak's resignation from the scandal-tainted Johnson's cabinet helped spark a ministerial exodus that forced the prime minister out last month.

As they began receiving postal and online ballot forms, a large chunk of the roughly 200,000 Tory members are said by pollsters to nurse a grievance against Sunak - one shared by Johnson.

The prime minister is not formally taking sides, but has told aides that he intends to give his successor some words of advice, "whoever she may be," the Sunday Times reported.

Despite her endorsements from the likes of Zahawi, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and Tory centrist Tom Tugendhat, Truss has warned against complacency.

Heading into the Exeter hustings, the foreign secretary has markedly improved in her sometimes robotic public delivery - seen most notoriously in a 2014 speech when she was environment secretary. 

Returning to her former field, the Remainer-turned-Brexit zealot promised over the weekend to "unleash" farmers from European Union regulations to improve the UK's food security.

Truss also promised to tackle labor shortages in agriculture, partly caused by post-Brexit restrictions on immigration which have forced UK farmers to leave fruit rotting in fields and to slaughter healthy pigs.