British Conservative frontrunner Liz Truss won another heavyweight endorsement on Monday as party members began a month of voting to decide the next occupant of 10 Downing Street, the seat of the UK’s prime minister.
Truss’s lagging rival Rishi Sunak vied to make up lost ground with a plan for future tax cuts — and potentially to host a future women’s football World Cup in Britain after England’s “Lionesses” — their women football team — won the European championship.
The Tory contenders were going head to head later on 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.
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 minority of the roughly 200,000 Tory members is 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.