Tory MPs called for an end to bruising personal attacks in the party’s leadership race today as the battle between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak became even nastier.
Culture secretary and Truss supporter Nadine Dorries launched an attack on Sunak’s immense wealth earlier today, tweeting that the ex-chancellor visited “Teesside in Prada shoes worth £450 and sported [a] £3,500 bespoke suit”.
She compared that to Truss who had been wearing “earrings which cost circa £4.50 from Claire Accessories” while campaigning.
It comes after Sunak and Truss sparred with each other over national security, with each campaign team briefing that the other would be soft on China and other malign foreign actors.
Anger and frustration from Conservative MPs in response to the attacks spilled out, with some concerned that a bruising leadership contest would damage the party’s electoral chances.
Replying to Dorries, veterans’ affairs minister Johnny Mercer said “the puerile nature of this leadership contest is embarrassing” and that it is “time to raise standards”.
“Probably worth remembering that on current trajectory we are out of power in two years’ time,” he said.
Fallen Tory leadership candidate Tom Tugendhat also called for contenders to dial down attacks, telling the BBC that “I hope very much what we’ll do is we’ll see this debate focus on ideas rather than on personalities”.
Truss is the bookmakers’ favourite to win the leadership contest and become next UK Prime Minister, with polling of Tory members giving the foreign secretary a 20+ point lead.
The biggest clash the pair have had is over the economy, with Sunak calling Truss’ plan to implement £34bn of unfunded tax cuts as inflationary and akin to “fantasy economics”.
The pair will face-off in a BBC debate tonight and a TalkTV debate tomorrow as Sunak tries to claw back the deficit.
Sunak has also agreed to a 30-minute grilling on Friday by Andrew Neil on Channel 4, however Truss’ campaign team indicated that they will not take part in a similar interview.