Tory leadership candidates 'will attack Sunak' says Falvey
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Tom Tugendhat has been knocked out of the race, leaving just four potential successors to Boris Johnson. The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who was deemed to have struggled in the weekend’s TV debates, received 31 votes in the third ballot of Tory MPs on Monday. On a busy night in Westminster, Rishi Sunak came top in the Tory ballot, winning the backing of 115 Conservative MPs. The former Chancellor – whose resignation a fortnight ago sparked Mr Johnson’s exit from Downing Street – remains the favourite to succeed his old boss as Prime Minister.
Dr Nicholas Dickinson, a political expert from the University of Oxford, claimed that Mr Sunak had been successful in convincing Tory MPs of his leadership credentials but still needed to win over Conservative Party members.
Reacting to the results, he told Express.co.uk: “Rishi Sunak seems to have done enough among Tory MPs but what remains to be seen is whether he has done enough among the membership.
“I would say he is still the way he started this leadership contest – as the soft favourite.”
Although he leads the race, Mr Sunak has drawn criticism over his public finances vision by refusing to promise immediate tax cuts were he to become Prime Minister.
However, the ex-Chancellor, who last week promised to “run the economy like Margaret Thatcher”, is popular among Conservative voters, according to recent polling.
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A survey of more than 4,400 people by JL Partners published on Sunday found that he was clear of fellow candidates Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt by 10 and 15 percentage points respectively.
For Dr Dickinson, his public popularity is in part due to the more measured style of leadership compared to Mr Johnson, as well as his slick personal branding.
He said: “In many ways he is the opposite of Boris Johnson. He is sober, sensible and has tidy haircuts.”
The academic claimed that Mr Sunak also provides the “clean break” the Tories need after a string of damaging scandals.
He continued: “Their number one priority should be to return to a visibly competent Government.
“The thing they are suffering most on is that they look like they are less likely to govern confidently than Labour and that is a disaster for the Conservatives.”
Dr Dickinson also discussed the dirty tricks of the Tory leadership race as backers of some candidates have been reported to have tried to torpedo rivals’ bids with plotting behind the scenes.
This has included an anti-Sunak “murky memo” apparently doing the rounds among Tory MPs, as well as an alleged “Stop Penny Campaign” that was highlighted by her supporter Michael Fabricant.
Dr Dickinson said: “The inherent dynamics of the leadership contest mean that it benefits those lower down the rankings to attack the frontrunner.
“So, inevitably most of that has focused on Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt.”
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He added: “Mordaunt has been interesting because the attacks have come from multiple directions or on multiple fronts.”
Despite Mr Sunak’s popularity in the third ballot, he may have a rival in Liz Truss in the final two, according to Tory MP Chloe Smith.
The Minister of State for Disabled People, Work and Health told Express.co.uk why she is backing the Foreign Secretary as the next Tory leader.
She said: “I think the TV debates made clear that it is only Liz who has a serious rival economic vision to Rishi Sunak’s.
“And I certainly hope that the Conservative Party membership would have the opportunity to choose between the two of those.”
Asked if she was sure that Ms Truss has the right plan for country’s finances, Ms Smith replied: “Yes, she does.”
She added: “She has got a clear conservative vision for the future of the country, including a strong economic plan.
“Accompanied by long-term plans for reform and a willingness to do a fresh spending review and to make sure that together, it is a plan for Government.
“That is the point. She is the most experienced candidate who is ready to lead from day one, because she knows how to achieve those things.
“And how to serve the British people by repaying the trust they placed in the Conservative Party.”
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