Sunak and Truss make final two – as it happened

20 July 2022

11:31 PM

20 July 2022

11:31 PM

Britain’s next Prime Minister will be either Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss. Refresh this page for the latest developments.

4.45 p.m. – Truss vs Sunak will be a philosophical war

Kate Andrews writes… The Tory grassroots have got themselves a real economic debate this summer: Rishi Sunak’s ‘Thatcherite’ economic philosophy vs Liz Truss’s ‘Reaganite’ plans to boost growth.

Both will have questions to answer. While Sunak’s line that ‘nothing comes for free’ is bound to resonate with Tory members, the tax burden has risen to a 72-year-high under his watch, as well as the introduction of a windfall tax on oil and gas companies that is very hard to explain within Conservative ideology.

On the flip-side, Truss will be under pressure to explain just how far she’s willing to go with deficit-financed tax cuts. She will also have to explain why she’s so comfortable with borrowing for day-to-day spending when inflation is lifting the government’s debt-servicing repayments to record highs.

There’s merit in finally letting this debate play out. It’s been going on for years within the walls of No. 10: Boris Johnson wanted to borrow more for spending and tax-cutting, while Sunak refused to let him do so. Now a version of both options is going to be presented to the Tory grassroots, who historically want lower taxes but also abhor pilling onto the debt. Which option they pick will tell us a lot about the future of the Tory party – and the extent to which Covid spending has changed perspectives around public finances and tax rates for good.

4.15 p.m. – Full steam ahead at Team Rishi

Katy Balls writes… With Rishi Sunak in the final two thanks by 24 votes, don’t expect any rest when it comes to his campaign. Sunak is behind in all membership polling against Liz Truss. His camp feel a sense or urgency to put Sunak out there and to try and change people’s minds. Expect more media appearances and policies. The ballots go out in early August so there is limited time for the candidates to make their pitch.

4.06 p.m. – The fight to come

Isabel Hardman writes… Liz Truss vs Rishi Sunak is going to be a hard-fought contest, and many in the Conservative party suspect it will end up being no less vehement and verbally violent than the contest so far. But this isn’t the only fight that is going to dominate the summer. The Penny Mordaunt camp feel as though they have been cheated by a campaign of ‘dirty tricks’ from Truss’s team, while Boris Johnson’s allies are utterly furious at what they see as the betrayal by Sunak of the outgoing Prime Minister. This means that there are going to be serious wounds in the party that both leadership contenders are going to struggle to heal. Whichever one of them wins is going to take over a party that is still arguing with itself and where a lack of trust is a serious issue.

4.03 p.m. – The right united around Truss

Katy Balls writes… Penny Mordaunt is out. Liz Truss narrowly pipped her to the post for second place at 113 votes to 105 votes. Rishi Sunak is out in front on 137. Expect Mordaunt’s supporters to blame blue-on-blue for her falling back. However, ultimately it was the likely result after Kemi Badenoch was knocked out – her exit allowed the right to unite around a candidate.

4.00 p.m. – Mordaunt out, Sunak and Truss in final two

Full results

1. Rishi Sunak – 137 (+19) (38%)

2. Liz Truss – 113 (+27) (32%)

3. Penny Mordaunt – 105 (+13) (29%)

3.57 p.m. – Nerves in Team Rishi

Isabel Hardman writes… Just before voting started, there was a panic from the Sunak camp. Calls started going to MPs during PMQs to ensure MPs were still on board, and Mel Stride sent a message out to supporters urging them not to vote tactically. There was a worry yesterday when Sunak only gained three votes between ballots that he was running out of steam. That seems to have grown overnight.

3.55 p.m. – Stanley Johnson’s final stand

Steerpike writes… Away from Westminster, in the sumptuous setting of a Canary Wharf restaurant, a member of the ancien régime has been making an undignified last stand. After losing ‘Author of the Year’ at the Boisdale annual awards, Stanley Johnson, the octogenarian father of Boris, was called up on stage to collect a spoof one dubbed the ‘Stanley Johnson award.’ Unfortunately, he gave what was, by all accounts, an extraordinarily ill-judged ten-minute rant in which he tried to defend his son and ‘totally lost the room.’ Onlookers claimed the former MEP was ‘rambling and incoherent’ and faced heckles including ‘He’s a liar!’ and ‘Boris is a traitor!’ One attendee complained the speech was a ‘total disaster’. Hardly the after-dinner polish we’ve come to expect from the Johnson family.

3.41 p.m. – Not much time for PM hopefuls to impress

James Forsyth writes… The final two will want to move fast. With ballot papers going out at the start of August, the time to make an impression on members’ before many of them start voting is quite limited. So, both camps will frontload their announcements. The BBC has also put its debate early in the contest, on Monday.

3.38 p.m. – The ghost at the feast

Kate Andrews writes… No matter who makes it into the final two today, there is one topic that’s going to dominate the next few weeks of debate: inflation. This morning’s update from the Office for National Statistics shows inflation reaching a 40-year high: up 9.4 per cent on the year in June.

​The cost-of-living crunch is only going to get worse this autumn, when the energy price cap lifts once more. While Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss all emphasise the importance and urgency of curbing inflation, their plans are going to have to become more detailed, and more convincing, to recruit grassroot support.

3.35 p.m. – Toxic Tories

James Forsyth writes… As we wait for the result, the bad blood in the Tory party is increasing. There is a feeling among many Penny Mordaunt supporters that Liz Truss’s campaign have had a hand in the attacks on her. One long-standing MP backing Mordaunt told me earlier that he would find it hard to be loyal to a Truss leadership for this reason. Whoever wins is going to have a tough job putting the party back together. As Theresa May’s rather churlish refusal to clap Boris Johnson at PMQs today shows, running through three leaders in just over six years has left a lot of poison in the Tory bloodstream.

3.15 p.m. – Is the next PM ready for Putin?

James Forsyth writes… Today has brought a reminder of the crises that the new Prime Minister will have to deal with from day one. The European Commission is calling on all EU member states to cut gas use by 15 per cent to prepare for supply cuts from Russia through Nord Stream 1, which reopens tomorrow. With the pipeline only flowing at limited levels, and the heatwave leading to higher energy use than usual, Germany will not be able to lay in stores for the winter. This means that Vladimir Putin will constantly try and use energy as a weapon in the coming months, threatening to cut off supplies completely if the West does this or that in support of Ukraine. Read more from James here.

3.05 p.m. – Boris’s final PMQs was a disappointment

Isabel Hardman writes… Boris Johnson’s farewell Prime Minister’s Questions was rather like his premiership: full of the unexpected, rather chaotic and a bit of a let down. Westminster has already visibly moved on from Johnson, even though he remains in office until early September, and so Keir Starmer devoted his questions to asking Johnson about the candidates to be his successor.

‘Mission largely accomplished, for now’, Johnson said, threateningly, before finishing on ‘hasta la vista, baby’. Tory MPs rose into a standing ovation for the man they were calling on to quit from the same benches two weeks ago. And then they went off to vote for the person who’ll replace him. Read more from Isabel here.

2.55 p.m. – Sunak looking confident, tight between Truss and Mordaunt

A quick reminder of how things went for the candidates in the last four rounds:

2.40 p.m. – Will it be Truss vs Sunak?

Katy Balls writes… This afternoon, MPs will vote to decide which two out of Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak progresses to the final round, in which they are whittled down to one by the party membership. The new leader will be announced at the beginning of September.

Although Mordaunt came out in second place in yesterday’s ballot, there is a growing consensus among MPs that the most likely result today is a Truss vs Sunak final. The fact that Kemi Badenoch was knocked out in the fourth ballot means that the right of the party ought to be able to unite around the Foreign Secretary as their preferred candidate. However, the numbers have been so tight so far that there is still room for an upset. Read more here.

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