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Tory leadership race: Rishi Sunak claims he is ‘underdog’ as Liz Truss blames France for travel chaos in Dover

Written by on 23 July 2022

The battle to be the next leader of the Conservative Party – and prime minister of the United Kingdom – continued on Saturday.

Rishi Sunak gave a speech in Margaret Thatcher’s home town of Grantham setting out his stall to Tory party members, framing himself as an “underdog”.

Meanwhile, Liz Truss blamed France for issues at the Channel which have seen massive tailbacks of traffic in Kent.

Campaigning by the two candidates is ramping up as they gun for the top job.

Politics Hub: Sunak and Truss still unpopular with general public

They have until 2 September to convince the card-carrying members of the Conservative Party to vote for them.

The exact size of this electorate is unknown, but numbered around 160,000 in 2019.

Launching his campaign to members, Mr Sunak said: “All the evidence is clear, I am the only person who can beat Labour. I am the only candidate who can protect the union and I am the only candidate who can keep Brexit safe.

“Today, my campaign with party members begins. My campaign will represent the very best of Conservative values. I will give everything to earn every vote, but be in no doubt – I am the underdog.

“The forces that want this to be a coronation for the other candidate. But I think members want a choice and they are prepared to listen and in the coming days they will see that I do not just offer change… I’m offering hope we can be better.”

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Rishi Sunak presser grab 23 July 25:43 Sunak’s ‘common sense Thatcherism’

And he revealed his plans to “take best of our COVID response and apply those lessons to clearing the massive backlogs in the NHS”.

Mr Sunak went on to say that Ms Truss’s plan to cut taxes while inflation is high is “wrong” and immoral and will cause mortgages to rise.

When this was put to Ms Truss, she said: “I think it’s wrong to be taking money from people we don’t need to take.

“When people across the country are struggling with the cost of living crisis.”

Mr Sunak had also implied that Ms Truss was not being honest about the economy.

She said: “I’m being very honest about the situation – we face the biggest economic crisis we have seen for a generation and now is not the time for business as usual.”

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Liz Truss MP speaks in Kent as travel chaos 0:28 Liz Truss on Dover chaos

On the NHS, Ms Truss said she would appoint a “strong” health secretary – and that a strong economy would be needed to fix the backlogs.

Ms Truss, who is the foreign secretary, was asked about the situation in Kent which has seen chaos as people try to cross the Channel.

She said it was due to the French authorities having “not put enough people on the border”, and denied it was due to Brexit.

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Pierre-Henri Dumont, the Republican MP for Calais, told Sky News that “almost 100%” of the kiosks at the Port of Dover allocated to the French police were filled on Friday.

He said: “Because of Brexit, we need to have more checks on passports, we need to stamp every passport, we need checks on who is coming into the European Union – something we didn’t have to do before Brexit.”

Sky News has also announced it will hold a live TV debate between Mr Sunak and Ms Truss on Thursday 4 August, hosted by Kay Burley.