Sunak and Truss clash during BBC leadership debate
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David Bull, who is also a former Brexit Party MEP and the current deputy leader of Reform UK, believes the Tories have “shot themselves in the foot” by offering its members a choice between Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak – suggesting Penny Mordaunt or Kemi Badenoch would be a better option than either. The two candidates went head-to-head in a feisty live debate on BBC One last night – but Mr Bull says the winner could rapidly see their victory turn into a “poison chalice” if they fail to deliver on the promises they’re making.
Mr Bull was selected as the Tory candidate for Brighton Pavilion in 2006 – although he opted to withdraw in 2009, prior to the general election a year later.
Now a presenter on TalkTV, he warned: “Boris Johnson is in the wings. There is definite skullduggery going on and that Bring Back Boris petition is over 20,000 signatures now.
“I spoke to David Bannerman, the former Tory MEP, who is heading up that petition last week, and make no mistake, they mean real business.”
Referring to the PM’s remark at the end of his final Prime Minister’s Question Time, Mr Bull added: “I think I was the first to say that with ‘Hasta La Vista’, the second part of that is ‘I’ll be back’.”
Referring to the wartime leader’s return to Downing Street in 1951, he said: ”What Boris Johnson wants I think is for whoever takes over to fail miserably at the next general election and then he will ride in rather like Winston Churchill did.”
Turning his attention to the contenders themselves, Mr Bull continued: “I think the Conservative Party have shot themselves in the foot because obviously there were dark arts at work.
“I spoke to Robert Buckland yesterday and I put this to him and I said, ‘when you talk to the electorate, and obviously talk to the viewers, they wanted a fresh face, they wanted Kemi Badenoch, they wanted Penny Mordaunt’.
“This was this was a fantastic time for the rebirth of a truly Conservative party because the current party is not conservative by any means.”
Referring to Ms Truss’s well-publicised opposition to Brexit prior to the 2016 referendum, Mr Bull said: “Of course it worries me – Liz Truss was an ardent Remainer.
“Now it’s okay to change your mind as long as you believe it. And I have to say she at least has conviction, she’s sorted those trade deals and she’s saying the right things, she’s saying cut tax.
“This is very much Reform UK policy which they have all stolen, but she knows the minute you cut taxes you put money back into consumers’ pocket.”
By contrast Mr Bull said: “I think Rishi Sunak has got a major problem. He is seen by the Tory members to be out of touch.
“He is obviously terribly wealthy, he wears £500 shoes to go to a building sites and yet he’s saying we need to repay those debts.
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“What I like about Liz Truss is she says Covid debt should be seen as a war debt and we need to pay it off over a long period of time.
“The Exchequer also has a lot of fiscal headroom so in fact, things aren’t quite as clear as they make out.”
Mr Bull also warned whoever was elected Tory leader they would face enormous pressure to resolve outstanding Brexit issues prior to the next election in 2024 – with parties such as his own waiting in the wings should they fail.
He explained: “The thing about Liz Truss in terms of Brexit is she has introduced those changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.
“Rishi Sunak doesn’t want to do that. I actually think now is the opportunity to say to the EU, ‘we have negotiated but a very long period of time, you are so intransigent, and we were going to press that nuclear button by triggering Article 16.
“And I think, from my understanding from people in the European Parliament, they’re very worried about Liz Truss getting in because she’s more likely to be combative towards them.
“If they don’t sort this out, I think the Conservatives won’t win an overall majority. The Labour Party won’t win one either and there will be a coalition with the Lib Dems and the Greens and the price of that will be proportional representation.
“And if that happens, then parties like Reform UK will be off to the races.”
Mr Sunak and Ms Truss traded sharp barbs during the course of the debate, moderated by Sophie Raworth.
Former chancellor Mr Sunak claimed there is “nothing Conservative” about Ms Truss’s economic plans and it would give the party “absolutely no chance” of winning the next election.
Foreign Secretary Ms Truss in turn suggested her rival would lead the country into a recession.
Ms Truss said she would put an economic growth plan in place “immediately” if she becomes prime minister, along with imposing a temporary moratorium on the green energy levy.
The increase in national insurance would also be reversed, Ms Truss said.
Mr Sunak said he would like to make sure that his government “always” has policies in place to support through the cost-of-living crisis.
In a tweet midway through the contest, Truss ally Nadine Dorries branded Mr Sunak “irritable, aggressive, bad tempered”, accusing him of talking over his opponent.
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