The last two candidates to be prime minister are tearing lumps out of each other in a vicious election campaign. But far more unites them than divides them.
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are both utterly committed to attacking workers’ living standards, savaging benefits and ramping up racism. They are both worse than each other.
As Covid cases once more threatened to overwhelm the NHS last Christmas, Sunak took an emergency flight home from California to block measures to stop the virus spreading. We know this because he boasted about it last week—it’s part of why he wants Tory members to back him.
That’s Sunak in a nutshell. He’s the jet-setting multi-millionaire ex-banker whose entire career has been about putting big business first.
Together, he and his wife Akshata Murthy own a fortune of £730 million. Before entering parliament they were the owners of property worth £10 million in ultra-posh Kensington, west London, and in California.
Then, when he became MP for Richmond, Yorkshire, he bought a £1.5 million, 12 acres Georgian manor there including an ornamental lake. There, he entertains the local Tory members with lavish summer parties where uniformed staff serve champagne and canapes.
At school he was Head Boy at Winchester College—which five chancellors before him attended. It was, as the ultra-posh Tatler magazine put it, “One of the most traditional and storied of England’s paths to power.” And that’s the point. Sunak’s pitch to the British establishment is that he’s one of them.
Bankers know they can trust Sunak to look after them because Sunak was himself a banker. He slipped straight from Oxford into a job at Goldman Sachs. Then he became a partner—and multi-millionaire—at London-based hedge fund The Children’s Investment Fund. In that time, the fund “arguably did more than any other to precipitate Britain’s banking crisis,” according to the Times newspaper.
After that he joined another Hedge Fund, Theleme Investors. He’s also got £430 million worth of shares in his wife’s billionaire father’s IT firm Infosys.
Until she was embarrassed into giving up her non-dom status, she could have avoided paying at least £4.4 million a year on dividends. And he waived his salary as chancellor so that—as a US Green Card holder—he could avoid paying tax in the US.
It’s that sort of business nous that made Sunak a good chancellor for the bosses.
He gifted them corporation tax cuts and handout grants. He paid for them with stealthy tax rises for the poorest with a freeze on the income tax threshold.
That’s the legacy Sunak hopes will make Tories back him now—and it’s what he promises as prime minister in the future.
That Liz Truss is the favourite to become Tory leader tells you a lot about the state of the Tory Party.
Her launch event was a drab affair, and she appeared to lose her way as she exited the stage. Truss describes herself as a “disrupter-in-chief” and someone who is “not afraid to speak her mind”.
She has pledged to hold an emergency budget to slash an eye-watering £30 billion a year in taxes mostly for the rich.
Her campaign is run from the Westminster townhouse of Tory peer and Norfolk landowner Greville Howard. The historic property on Lord North Street was previously used by Boris Johnson for his 2019 campaign
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and Brexit opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg have rowed in behind her campaign.
Truss denied she was modelling herself on Margaret Thatcher, despite copying her outfits and posing like her in a tank. She has cultivated a high social media profile for a number of years. This includes photos of her riding a bicycle with a Union Jack umbrella—for which she claimed £2,500 in expenses.
She thinks a bit bigger these days. She spent £500,000 in three months using private government jets.
Within five weeks of taking office she plans to hold an emergency budget. She would reverse the rise in national insurance, cancel a planned increase of tax on profits and freeze green levies on energy.
Apparently she doesn’t plan to announce major “reform,” to the NHS until “she has got her feet under the desk”. Truss clearly plans to turn her bellicose foreign policy rhetoric up a notch.
The extra flag waving means she plans to increase defence spending by a third from 2 percent to 3 percent of GDP by 2030. She previously encouraged people to go and fight in Ukraine.
Former Boris Johnson adviser Dominic Cummings coined her nickname as “the human hand grenade”. Truss has vowed she would send more refugees and migrants to Africa, under the Tory government’s widely derided Rwanda asylum scheme.
“I’m determined to see it through to full implementation, as well as exploring other countries that we can work on similar partnerships with. It’s the right thing to do,” she told the Mail on Sunday.
“I’m also determined to make sure that we have the right level of forces at our border. I’m going to increase the border force to make sure that we have the proper protection in place directly at the border.”
Truss consistently opposed higher benefits over longer periods for people with disabilities and illnesses, and was against measures to reduce climate change.
After Oxford University she was an accountant for oil giant Shell before becoming economic director at Cable & Wireless.
Labour is cosying up to big business and bankers with posh dinners and promises of big profits ahead if they abandon the Tories for Keir Starmer.
That’s the party’s reaction to the Tories’ crisis and leadership election—and it lay behind a pro-business, pro-austerity speech Starmer made on Monday.
Labour’s shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds said that he, Starmer and shadow chancellor have met with bosses from nearly half of the top 100 companies in Britain.
He said they were trying to mimic Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s plan to woo big business—known as the “prawn cocktail offensive”—in the 1990s.
“It was a prawn cocktail offensive back then but things have moved on,” said Reynolds. “It’s more of a guinea fowl offensive now.”
Senior Labour officials also say the party has created a beefed-up “business engagement team” to strengthen links with boardrooms.
Labour is trying to build on what it thinks is big business’s mistrust of the Tories that grew under Boris Johnson. Starmer thinks the Tory splits emerging in their leadership contest has given Labour the chance to win over bosses.
But that means trying to prove to them that Labour has changed since the days of Jeremy Corbyn’s left wing party leadership.
In a speech on Monday Starmer said Labour had to change its “instincts” and focus on boosting “growth” for bosses. “There will be no ‘magic money tree’ economic with us,” he said. That’s repeating a phrase a former Tory prime minister used to justify austerity and trash Corbyn’s plans to spend on services.
“With me and Rachel Reeves you will always get sound finances, careful spending, strong, secure and fair growth.” he said.
That was after Reeves refused to say Labour would offer public sector workers better pay than the Tories, then ditched Labour’s policy to nationalise, energy, rail and water.
But for Starmer, the plan is working.
Labour boasts that demand for exhibition space—where businesses ply their wares to Labour politicians and officials—at its annual conference is at a 15-year high. And it says its business forum at the September conference is sold out.
What’s more, Labour is delighted that Tory donors are fluttering their eyes back at it.
Senior Labour officials claim that former Tory donors are in “active conversations” with the party.
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are both trying to outdo the other in their chillingly anti-China rhetoric.
It makes clear they would line up with the US to move on from confronting Russia to sharper economic clashes and potentially military ones with China.
Sunak said China represented “the largest threat to Britain and the world’s security and prosperity this century”. But allies of Truss said Sunak had been “soft” over China. They said that he had, until recently, been planning to hold a UK-China economic and finance conference for the first time since 2019.
Sunak said he would ban all 30 branches of the Confucius Institute—an educational and cultural body—in Britain.
But one Truss ally told the Daily Telegraph newspaper, “Liz is the one who has the experience, the credibility and the resolve when it comes to Ukraine and China, which puts her at the hawkish end of the party, while Rishi is more at the dovish end. It’s a bit of a winner for us.
A source within the Sunak campaign hit back, “All the sanctions that were put in place against Russia, like freezing assets, were put in place by the Treasury. He gave the Ministry of Defence the biggest uplift in spending since the Cold War,”
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