New UK PM tipped to be on election footing from DAY ONE

Truss v Sunak: Pienaar identifies 'threatening' aspect for Tories

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Votes are being counted ahead of the announcement on Monday confirming whether Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak will enter No 10. Frontrunner Ms Truss said she believes in a “brighter and better future” for the country and vowed to do “everything in my power” to make sure the UK succeeds.

“It has been fantastic meeting and speaking to thousands of members across the whole of the UK over the last six weeks,” she said. 

“Our members make our Party great, and I would like to thank all the volunteers who have helped along the way.

“I believe in a brighter and better future for Britain. I have a bold plan that will grow our economy and deliver higher wages, more security for families and world-class public services. I’ll do this by cutting taxes, pushing through supply-side reform and slashing red tape that is holding businesses back. 

“If I am elected Prime Minister, I will never let anyone talk us down and I will do everything in my power to make sure our great nation succeeds.”

The next premier’s options for going to the polls are limited, with strategists insisting it is a  “matter of numbers” and there are only four or five options.

October 5 is being talked about in political circles as the most likely date as it would allow boundary review changes to be implemented in July.

The changes, carried out by independent bodies across the UK’s four nations, could be worth ten seats to the Conservative party.

Economic turbulence is expected to continue well into next year as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine wreaks havoc on global energy markets.

But delaying an election beyond October means you are “waiting for something good to turn up but it won’t and you have run out of road”, according to a well-connected source.

The maximum electoral term of five years ends on December 17, 2024.

Labour is also expected to continue to struggle to have a chance of winning an outright victory because it is showing little sign of winning back the number of seats needed in Scotland to dominate in Westminster.

It would leave the party reliant on the Scottish nationalists or smaller parties to prop it up in government.

Voting closed on Friday night on the Conservative leadership campaign that started in July after Boris Johnson was ousted by the party.

Political betting market data from Smarkets said Ms Truss is 96 per cent favourite to win with no signs of any late betting support for Mr Sunak.

It forecasts the vote share would be 64 per cent to 36 per cent in the Foreign Secretary’s favour.

But a Conservative pollster said that while Ms Truss is on course for a “clear victory” over Mr Sunak it will be by a tighter margin than expected.

Lord Hayward, a former MP and current Tory peer, said he is not convinced Ms Truss’s victory will be by such an emphatic margin but she remains on course to become the next prime minister.

He added a tighter win will mean it is “absolutely necessary” for Ms Truss to appoint a cabinet that brings together all sides of the Tory parliamentary party.

Lord Hayward said: “My overall sense is Liz Truss will win but I am not convinced it will be by the margin that the polls are predicting.

“It will be clear, she will have a clear victory, but I would be surprised if it’s by the margin the polls are predicting.”

He said his prediction of a tighter margin of victory for Ms Truss is rooted in the conversations he has had with those who have attended the hustings.

“The party and the individuals will be bruised by the experience, there’s no question, and it will take time to recover,” he added.

“At the moment it appears from all the leaks that all the positions seem to be going to Truss supporters in the cabinet.

“Now that would be bad even if there was a very clear margin of victory, but if there’s a narrower margin of victory it is absolutely necessary that right at the top the sides are brought together.

“Liz Truss starts off with a disadvantage which has faced a number of other politicians in their time – the most recent one being probably Jeremy Corbyn – in that she doesn’t necessarily have the automatic support of the majority of her parliamentary party.”

Mr Sunak has consistently acknowledged he is the underdog and his supporters continue to hope he can cause a surprise.

Kevin Hollinrake, Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, said: “I’ve seen some of the polls and national polls. I think it’s quite hard for pollsters to determine who is a Conservative member and who is not because there’s not an open database.

“But I know who mine are. I polled my 700 members, 239 of them responded, so about a third of them responded, and Rishi got an eight-point lead.

“I’ve seen similar kinds of polls around different constituencies around the country. So I don’t think he’s cut and dried. I think he’s probably neck and neck.”

The leadership contest has been characterised by infighting among Conservative MPs, with blue-on-blue attacks continuing up until the final days.

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