Lizz Truss sees victory in the race to elect the Conservative who will govern the United Kingdom soon | International
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The race for the leadership of the British Conservative Party has turned into a sprint in which the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, triumphantly approaches the finish line. The first official campaign event took place this Thursday in Leeds, where Truss was playing at home. Her real challenge before the 12 rallies scheduled until August 31 throughout the United Kingdom is essentially passive, since she only has to avoid sabotaging the coronation that the polls predict for her. Meanwhile, his rival, the former Minister of Economy Rishi Sunak, absolute winner in the five eliminatory rounds in which the deputies decided, is forced to make a titanic comeback for which time is running out and that hardly depends on him anymore, given the Truss magnetism between the bases.
The Tories they had decided to accelerate the process to evict Boris Johnson from Downing Street as soon as possible. And the Conservative leadership succession has resulted in a speed test in which Truss is the biggest winner. Neither side admits it openly, but the next 10 days will be vital to decide who will be the winner – or winner – to be announced on September 5 and, the next day, will move to Number 10, after passing through the Palace of Buckingham to accept from the queen the task of forming a government.
The vertigo is evident in the strategies and palpable in the public conduct of each candidate, both in television debates and in direct contact with supporters. Sunak needs to reinforce his more immediate media exposure and intensify his meetings with the grassroots, while Truss chooses to minimize the risk of media scrutiny and limit himself to mass baths with the affiliates. In a fight in which she has entered as the winner, with an advantage of 24 points according to the YouGov demoscopic firm, only she would be responsible for a disaster, compared to the unfortunate position of her adversary, who needs not only to climb positions urgently, but a mistake of the minister so resounding as to stop his apparently unstoppable victory.
The fate of Sunak, always behind in the polls among the militants, was sentenced when the organization, fearful that a postal service strike would break the contest, decided that the ballots would be sent as soon as possible. On Friday, August 5, the party’s 150,000 to 200,000 members — the official figure has never been confirmed — will have received them. Past experiences indicate that they will soon return them with their vote, questioning the point of still having six weeks of campaigning ahead of them. The rules allow the vote to be changed once, but it would take a monumental cataclysm from one of the contenders to cause a significant change in the result.
David against Goliath
Truss’s superiority has turned the primaries into a David versus Goliath dynamic, with Sunak having a hard time dreaming of defeating the giant. And this despite the fact that, according to the polls, the former Minister of Economy has a greater pull in the general population —after all, the one that wins elections— and enjoys among his own supporters Tories of one more image of ruler than the head of Foreign Affairs. Truss, however, generates more trust and sympathy among the militants and is considered more in contact with the citizenry.
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It does not matter that she is the most veteran minister since the Tories came to power in 2010, and has served under three prime ministers (David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson). Her campaign profile portrays her as an insurgent coming to fix a system in dire need of repair. Her image connects directly with the admired Margaret Thatcher, and precisely with one of the features that the British right wing most venerates in the Iron Lady: her stubborn firmness in the transformation of the State and the productive and social model of the United Kingdom.
As if that were not enough, Truss speaks the language that the bases want to hear: that of tax cuts, although he remains unclear about how he is going to finance them, beyond increasing the debt and treating the budget hole generated by the pandemic as war debt. . The snips of spending that, according to economic orthodoxy, are necessary to drastically reduce tax pressure are not in his language. He has also not clarified how he will control runaway inflation (9.4% and rising), limiting himself to ensuring that tax cuts will ease wage constraints and stimulate growth.
The minister sells optimism and ridicules the caution of her rival, until July 5 responsible for the Economy, as Project Fear (Project Fear, in English), a label taken directly from the manual of the campaign in favor of Brexit in the 2016 referendum, which dispatched warnings about the economic risks of leaving the European Union as alarmism. For Truss, once a defender of continuity in the community bloc, all means are valid to consolidate himself in the imaginary of the bases as the prototype of the ideal leader, champion of the free market, opposed to European integration and supported by the most to the right of the party.
His transformation requires the antagonism of the adversary, whom he has managed to portray as the champion of an apparently toxic moderation in the current Conservative Party. Sunak’s proven anti-EU credentials, even before the plebiscite six years ago, no longer count. In the current battle for the heart of the militancy, success corresponds to the size of the promises, not to the likelihood, as Sunak himself has ended up concluding: if until this week he embodied fiscal prudence and was the one who urged to put under control the rise in inflation before lowering taxes, the fading of his succession aspirations has led him to announce that he will reduce VAT on household energy bills.
The proposal, sudden and partially cooked, is probably too late to change his luck. But her opponent’s is also thrown. With the cost of living crisis and the ticking time bomb represented by the health and care system, whoever takes the reins of the Government faces one of the most difficult periods that a new premiere. And if, as the polls predict, it is Truss, there is the added inconvenience that, in the succession race, only a third of the parliamentary group had supported her, which will require her to reunify a party still agitated after the last regicide.
But the challenge does not end there. Whoever wins will be the third successive leader to move into 10 Downing Street without going to the polls. He will have, yes, the approval of the conservative militants. But, as has been shown in previous processes, this electorate tends to reward attributes that are not necessarily what the general population looks for in their leaders. Hence the return of the debate on whether it should be the deputies, as essential recipients of citizen sovereignty, who elect the leaders, and not the bases, a group that is rarely a reflection of the society to which they belong.
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