Yesterday, Liz Truss has this morning performed a screeching U-turn on a policy to pay regional public sector workers less than their London counterparts. it came after a severe backlash from Tory MPs and Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen.
The embarrassing move comes as Truss and her rival Rishi Sunak continue to flesh out their policy positions on a range of issues as ballot papers begin to drop on Tories’ doormats.
Over the next few weeks it will be up to Conservative members to decide which of the two will take on the top job in No 10.
The pair have so far navigated two of the summer’s 12 official Tory hustings, where they are seeking to woo voters with their vision for the country. Here we look at their stances on key issues.
Tax and spending
Rishi Sunak: The former chancellor has pitched himself as the fiscally conservative candidate and has criticised his rival’s tax-cutting plans as “comforting fairytales”.
He has promised to “deliver tax cuts that drive growth”, but to do so in a “way that’s responsible”.
As he battled to make up ground on the Foreign Secretary, he pledged to temporarily scrap VAT on energy bills from October if the price cap rises above £3,000 as expected, saving households around £160 at a cost to the Exchequer of around £4.3bn.
And in a last-ditch effort to win over the party faithful before ballots started dropping on their doormats, Mr Sunak vowed to take 4p off income tax within seven years.
Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, has pledged to “start cutting taxes from day one” with a new Budget and Spending Review that would reverse April’s rise in national insurance and next year’s corporation tax hike from 19 per cent to 25 per cent.
Truss has not fully explained how she would fund the £30bn worth of tax cuts she has promised, but previously said they “can be paid for within the existing fiscal envelope”.
Part of her plan is to spread the country’s Covid debt over a longer period of time.
She had also pledged a “war on Whitehall waste” to save £11bn, but her policy proposals were swiftly skewered by a U-turn.
The Truss campaign initially said she would save up to £8.8bn a year by ultimately paying public sector workers in cheaper regions less than their counterparts in London and the South East.
But a spokeswoman announced a little over 13 hours after the plan’s publication that this proposal had been scrapped, leaving a multibillion-pound hole in her fiscal strategy.
As part of her “Whitehall waste” crackdown, Truss also planned to save around £2bn a year by cutting civil service time off, and around £12m a year by scrapping jobs aimed at increasing inclusion and diversity in the public sector.
Separately, she has stated her intention to turn brownfield sites and other locations into “investment zones”, dubbed “full-fat freeports”.
Truss has said she would “simplify” taxes and pledged reforms to prevent people being penalised for taking time off work to care for family members or children.
Rishi Sunak: Has re-iterated his support for the Government’s controversial Rwanda asylum policy, saying he would do “whatever it takes” to get it up and running.
He has also unveiled a 10-point plan that includes the promise of a narrower definition of who qualifies for asylum compared with that offered by the European Convention on Human Rights, with enhanced powers to detain, tag and monitor illegal migrants.
He has promised to give Parliament control over who comes to the UK by creating an annual cap on the number of refugees accepted each year, albeit one that can be changed in the case of sudden emergencies.
Liz Truss: Also supports the Rwanda policy and has said that under her leadership it could be extended further, with partnerships with more countries and further return and resettlement agreements.
She has said she will increase Border Force staff levels from 9,000 to 10,800 and double the Border Force Maritime staffing levels, while also bringing forward a strengthened UK Bill of Rights to provide a “sound legal basis” to tackle illegal migration.#
Rishi Sunak: The Leave voter has promised to scrap or reform all EU law or bureaucracy still on the statute book by the time of the next general election, and have initial recommendations on whether each law stays or goes within 100 days.
Liz Truss: Voted Remain but has since embraced Brexit and scooped up the backing of staunch Brexiteers in the party. Helped push through the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill which critics say breaks international law.
She has vowed to review all EU laws retained after Brexit by the end of next year in a “red tape bonfire” if she becomes prime minister, and to scrap or replace those that are deemed to hinder UK growth.
Reportedly, Truss said she would seek to reform the European Convention on Human Rights but would be “prepared to leave” it.
She has vowed to replace EU law that restricts the development of farming infrastructure and technology, including agricultural drone use and precision breeding technologies.
She also promised to tackle the labour shortages in farming, partly caused by post-Brexit freedom of movement restrictions, with a short-term expansion to the seasonal workers scheme.
Rishi Sunak: Has promised a “vaccines-style” taskforce to tackle NHS backlogs, calling dealing with the issue one of his top priorities.
He has plans to expand the network of specialist surgical centres and community diagnostics hubs in order to eliminate one-year NHS waiting times six months earlier than planned by September 2024, and to get overall numbers falling by next year.
Liz Truss: Agrees on the urgent need to deal with care backlogs, promising to install a “strong” health secretary to solve the issue.
She has also said she is “completely committed” to current Government promises for NHS spending, despite her plans for tax cuts.
Rishi Sunak: Has promised to close all 30 of Beijing’s Confucius Institutes in the UK and “kick the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) out of our universities”, declaring China “the biggest-long term threat to Britain”.
Liz Truss: “Helped lead the international response to increased Chinese aggression” as Foreign Secretary and “this will only continue when she becomes prime minister”, her campaign says.
Law and order
Rishi Sunak: Has said criminals who refuse to attend court for their sentencing would face longer terms behind bars.
Police would be ordered to take tougher action to tackle “grooming gangs” and officers “must be fully focused on fighting actual crime in people’s neighbourhoods, and not policing bad jokes on Twitter”.
He has also pledged to expand police powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, and crack down on graffiti and littering.
Liz Truss: Would order police to go “back to basics” and cut homicide, serious violence and neighbourhood crime by 20 per cent by 2024 rather than investigating “Twitter rows and hurt feelings”, with league tables showing forces’ performances.
Rishi Sunak: Views the Nato target of 2 per cent of GDP as a “floor and not a ceiling” and notes it is set to rise to 2.5 per cent “over time” but refuses to set “arbitrary targets”.
Liz Truss: Has pledged to increase defence spending to 3 per cent of GDP by 2030 and strengthen the intelligence services. Said the Government’s current plan to cut the size of the Army to 72,500 in 2025 is “up for review”.
Women’s and transgender rights
Rishi Sunak has pledged a “manifesto for women’s rights”, including opposing biological men being allowed to compete against women in sport, and guidance for schools on how they teach issues of sex and gender.
He has also vowed to review the 2010 Equality Act to stop the “woke nonsense” it has allowed to “permeate public life”.
He wants to preserve gendered words such as “woman” or “mother” by ensuring sex means biological sex in the legislation, and clarify that gender self-identification does not have legal force.
He has promised to protect free speech by amending the Public Sector Equality Duty, which requires public bodies to consider discrimination.
This would be to ensure organisations “are open and welcoming” to people with differing political opinions and religious and philosophical world views, “putting a stop to practices such as no-platforming”, his campaign said.
Liz Truss: Has previously shelved plans for an overhaul of gender recognition rules to make it easier for trans people to change their legal gender.
But she has also spoken out in favour of single-sex spaces, telling a Tory party hustings audience that she backs a policy that guarantees schoolgirls can go to a toilet in a safe environment.
Her pledge for a “war on Whitehall waste” includes scrapping jobs aimed at increasing inclusion and diversity in the public sector.
She has claimed her plans would tackle left-wing “groupthink” within the Civil Service.
Climate change and net zero
Rishi Sunak: Committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
He has pledged to keep the ban on building new onshore wind farms, but wants to introduce a legal target to make Britain energy self-sufficient by 2045 by overseeing a massive expansion in offshore turbines.
Liz Truss: Backs the net zero push, but would pause green levies on domestic energy bills, which could damage the target.
She says there is a strong case for lifting the ban on fracking and wants to move away from the EU’s habitat directive in favour of a stronger British biodiversity target.
Housing and infrastructure
Rishi Sunak has vowed to improve housing stock and energy efficiency. He wants to scrap EU Solvency II rules to help investors put money into infrastructure assets.
Sunak has also pledged to slash the number of empty shops on Britain’s high streets by removing hurdles for those properties to be quickly converted into new businesses or cafes.
He would seek to reduce regulations around farmers’ markets, make local authorities assess social value when considering the location of public services, and protect access to cash points.
Liz Truss would scrap what she calls “Stalinist” housing targets in favour of tax cuts and deregulation.
Rishi Sunak has said he backs the “return” of grammar schools, which initially prompted questions over whether he wants to overturn the ban on new institutions imposed by Labour more than 20 years ago.
However, it is understood he supports the expansion of existing grammar schools in local areas.
Liz Truss has pitched herself as the “education prime minister” with a six-point plan that includes replacing failing academies with “a new wave of free schools” and improving maths and literacy standards.
She has said she would end the ban on new grammar schools.
Rishi Sunak has said a second Scottish independence referendum is “the wrong priority at the worst possible moment”.
Wants to build on the “success” of Scotland’s contribution to the UK.
Liz Truss: Has ruled out a second referendum, branding First Minister Nicola Sturgeon an “attention seeker” who should be ignored.
She says she is a “child of the union”, and believes “we’re a family and we’re better together”.