Former chancellor Rishi Sunak’s bid to become the next Conservative leader has suffered a setback, after another ex-chancellor and Tory colleague, Sajid Javid (pictured), criticised his economic policies and endorsed leadership rival, Liz Truss.
Javid – who dropped out of the race to become the next PM before MPs’ votes began – said that Sunak’s policies risked making the UK a “middle-income economy by the 2030s” and that immediate tax cuts were needed as a “prerequisite for growth”.
Javid wrote in the Times that Sunak’s approach would risk the country “sleepwalking into a big-state, high-tax, low-growth, social democratic model,” while hailing Truss as the “best of Thatcher and Reagan” and insisting she was better poised to address “the challenges of our age.”
With Truss outperforming Sunak in current polls of Conservative party members, it is a significant setback for his campaign not to receive the support of a colleague who also has a background in finance and worked closely with him in the Treasury.
It was Sunak who succeeded his close colleague Javid as chancellor in 2020, after the latter quit Boris Johnson’s cabinet following a refusal of the PM’s request to dispense with his advisors.
It was also the resignations of both men from Boris Johnson’s cabinet in quick succession earlier this year that led to a domino effect of ministerial resignations which forced the beleaguered PM to resign after weeks of resisting calls to do so.
Javid’s endorsement now means that Truss has the support of several former leadership rivals, a list which also includes trade minister Penny Mordaunt, chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, backbencher Tom Tugendhat and attorney general Suella Braverman.
While a backer of the Sunak campaign in Treasury Committee chair Mel Stride has warned that unfunded tax cuts would exacerbate inflation, the former chancellor is now facing a fight to recover ground as he and Truss prepare to clash in a Sky News TV debate on Thursday evening.
At the latest leadership hustings in Cardiff on Wednesday, Truss reiterated her claim that her plans to use regional pay boards to link public sector salaries to local living costs had been “misrepresented” and that she wouldn’t be following through on the policy.
Sunak took aim at Truss’ original idea and said that he was pleased to have seen a U-turn, warning that it could have seen “almost half a million workers in Wales getting a pay cut”.
Both politicians also used the hustings to criticise the reigning government in Wales, with Truss calling first minister Mark Drakeford of Welsh Labour a "low energy Jeremy Corbyn" who is "ashamed" of UK history, while Sunak said that he would call out "failures of devolution" in the country.