August 9, 2022

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Foreign Secretary Truss enters the race to become Britain's next prime minister

Foreign Secretary Truss enters the race to become Britain’s next prime minister

  • Eleven candidates campaigned to be the next prime minister
  • Tax plans outline the early stage of the leadership debate
  • Rules for replacing Prime Minister Johnson will be announced on Monday

LONDON (Reuters) – The 11 candidates seeking to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister will learn the timetable for choosing the new British leader on Monday as the competition becomes increasingly volatile, bitter and divisive.

Britain’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss, has become the latest high-profile name to present itself, echoing her rivals’ promises of tax cuts and saying she will maintain a tough line against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Johnson was forced to step down last Thursday after his government collapsed due to a series of scandals.

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The contest for the leadership of the ruling Conservative Party, with the winner then becoming prime minister. The goal is to find a successor by early September.

Lawmakers will have to reduce the number of candidates to the last two by July 21, before a mail ballot for the 200,000 Conservative party members takes place over the summer.

Bob Blackman, a Conservative lawmaker and a member of the 1922 Executive Committee that sets the rules, said the process would end on Monday evening.

He predicted that the candidates would gain the support of about 20 deputies to proceed with the first round of voting, before the last two ballots were decided.

Already the battle for the top job has become personal.

Former Finance Minister Sajid Javid, one of the candidates, criticized what he called “toxic gossip” and “attack notes” thrown by some of his colleagues over the weekend.

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“This is not House of Cards or Game of Thrones, and the people who are here just because they are enjoying the game, they are in the wrong place,” he said. “This is a time for cohesion, not division.”

The race came on the heels of one of the most turbulent periods in modern British political history, when more than 50 ministers and aides to the government resigned, denouncing Johnson’s character, integrity and inability to tell the truth.

With many lawmakers unhappy with the disgraced Johnson staying in office until a successor is found, the party is looking to speed up the electoral process.

tax cuts

The issue of tax cuts quickly became the central battle in the race as nearly all candidates promised to cut business or personal taxes.

Truss, who has held ministerial positions in a number of government departments including commerce, justice and treasury, offered her speech, saying it would reflect the recent rise in National Insurance contributions and noting a corporate tax cut.

His fellow rivals, Jeremy Hunt and Javid, have pledged to cut the corporate tax, while former Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt has pledged to cut fuel surcharges.

Former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak is the front-runner, but the only candidate who has played down the possibility of imminent tax cuts, saying that adopting “comfortable fairy tales” would make future generations worse off.

This prompted his rivals to attack his economic record after the tax burden rose to the highest level since the 1950s. A lawmaker has confirmed that a file critical of Sunak’s record has been circulated on lawmakers’ WhatsApp groups.

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“The Economics of Imagination”

Nadim al-Zahawi, the finance minister appointed in last week’s turmoil, said he was also targeted by his rivals after media reports raised questions about the former businessman’s personal finances and tax record.

Whoever wins the driving race will have a hard time choosing.

The British economy faces skyrocketing inflation, high debt and low growth, as people grapple with the most severe strain on their finances in decades, all against the backdrop of an energy crisis exacerbated by the war in Ukraine that has driven up fuel prices.

On the issue of immigration, all of the major leadership candidates have pledged to maintain the government’s policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, which shows how the party has moved to the right of the political spectrum in recent years.

Other candidates include Attorney General Suila Braverman, Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Tugendhat and Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps.

One Conservative MP said he was amazed at how many of his people took part in the leadership contest.

“I shouldn’t be surprised by the ambitions and delusions of some of my colleagues, but I am,” he said. “I expect we will narrow the list of candidates very quickly.”

Opposition Labor leader Keir Starmer in a speech has taken aim at an “arms race for the fictional economy” by Tory leadership candidates, claiming that more than 200 billion pounds ($239 billion) of commitments made over the weekend were unfunded.

Johnson refused to accept any of the candidates.

(dollar = 0.8357 pounds)

Additional reporting by Movija M and Kylie McClellan; Editing by Angus McSwan and Hugh Lawson

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