Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss will be the final contenders for Boris Johnson’s job | International
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The two rivals who will compete for the leadership of the British Conservative Party are precisely the two ministers who contributed most to defining Boris Johnson’s brief term in Downing Street. The Doctor Jekyll Y Mr Hyde of a prime minister who wanted to be responsible and wasteful in economic matters; moderate and aggressive in its relationship with the EU; committed and reluctant in the face of the challenge of climate change; open and liberal, but also reactionary and grumpy in the face of social change. The former Minister of Economy Rishi Sunak and the still Minister of Foreign Affairs, Liz Truss, have managed to emerge triumphant from the first phase of the primaries. This Wednesday, their fellow deputies have elected them ―Sunak, in first place, with 137 votes; Truss, in second position, with 113― to face each other in the second phase.
Throughout August, both will tour the country and will be announced among the 200,000 members of the Conservative Party with the right to vote. The ballots will gradually arrive by mail to the 1922 Committee (the body that brings together deputies Tories without position in the Government, in charge of organizing the primary process and election of the new leader). On September 5, the name of the new – or new – leader of the formation and, therefore, prime minister will be officially announced.
Penny Mordaunt, the surprise of the primaries from day one, has seen her candidacy slowly deflate. In part, because of the ambiguity and confusion of her messages. In part, because beyond symbolizing a certain provincial normality of Middle England that initially seduced the affiliates, he had many enemies within the parliamentary group who doubted his ability to work or the solidity of his speech, and they have maneuvered to the end to nullify their aspirations. In the last round she has been eliminated, although her 105 votes show that until the end she was a serious rival for any of the other two contenders.
Pragmatism versus ideology
It is paradoxical that Sunak, a defender of Brexit from the first minute and a staunch supporter of the conservative fiscal orthodoxy promoted by Margaret Thatcher, has come to symbolize the moderate, appeasing, pragmatic candidate. And while Truss, a defender in her day of the permanence of the United Kingdom in the EU, she is now the champion of the Eurosceptics, the hard wing and the most ideologically to the right sector of the Tories.
If Sunak has tried to defend to the end, in the face of galloping inflation ―9.4% in June, according to the data released this Wednesday― and a recession on the horizon, the responsible discourse that avoids talking about lowering taxes until the situation is controlled, Truss raises the flag of immediate tax reduction, and suggests that the immense debt accumulated during the pandemic be treated as war debt, with a longer term to pay it off. “The fact is that a tax increase right now will stifle the growth of the economy, and it will prevent us from achieving the income we need to pay the debt,” said Truss in the last television debate of the candidates, last Sunday, in a maneuver to directly blame Sunak for the coming recession.
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‘So long’, Johnson
Boris Johnson, capable of endlessly reinventing his personality and his state of mind, seems these days the happiest Conservative MP of all. On Tuesday, during a visit to the Farnborough Air Festival, southwest of London, he defined himself as the top gun of the United Kingdom – at least until early September, when he is replaced as prime minister – and posted a selfie inside the cockpit of a Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter jet.
In his last control session in the House of Commons, which took place this Wednesday, Johnson faced the Labor opposition with the impression of being a prime minister who had a long term ahead of him, and joked with the conservative deputies of his bench. His last parting words were advice to his future successor, but also thinly veiled jabs at Rishi Sunak, the finance minister whose resignation was seen by Johnson and his team as the fatal stab that accelerated the downfall. of the prime minister.
“Always stay close to the Americans, stand up for Ukraine, and defend democracy and freedom everywhere,” it proclaimed. “Lower taxes and deregulate whenever you can, so that this country continues to be the best place to live and invest, as it already is,” he defended, against the idea propagated by his rivals that Sunak refuses to make tax cuts. “Mission more than accomplished (mission largely accomplishedin the original in English), goodbye, baby”, Johnson concluded, with the words in Spanish of the character of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2. The Conservative deputies have risen to say goodbye to Johnson to applause, with a mixture of sincere affection, but also relief at the departure of the politician who raised and lowered the Conservative Party the most in the last three years.
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