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Sunak, Truss clash in heated TV debate
London: In a quest to succeed Boris Johnson as UK's next Prime Minister, the former chancellor Rishi Sunak and British Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss traded blows at each other over economic policy, foreign relations in the first-ever TV debate on Monday night.
The candidates clashed over Britain's future ties with China after cutting ties with Russia. Describing China as a threat to Britain's economic security, Sunak said "It is time that we stand up to our values" but the former chancellor was snapped back by Truss there and then when she underlined how the minister was pushing for closer trade relations with China a month ago.
Ahead of the leadership debate, Rishi Sunak tweeted a series of tough new measures he would introduce as prime minister to "face down" China. His proposals included closing all 30 Confucius Institutes in the UK and empowering MI5 to help tackle industrial espionage.
Sunak said his rival's 'unconservative and unfunded' tax cut plans would leave our children and grandchildren saddled with paying off Covid debts.
Truss and Sunak even engaged in personal attacks with Sunak criticised over his wealth and style of dressing, as Truss faced claims she was economically illiterate.
A rare moment of unity came when a question was asked whether the Royal Navy would be sent to defend grain exports from Ukraine to which both the contenders showcased denials.
On being asked about whether Truss would deploy the Royal Navy in the war between Russia and Ukraine, she said "I am not prepared for the UK to become involved directly in the conflict", adding to which Sunak stated, "We will make sure to support Ukraine financially and this is where I and Truss are together on this."
Boris Johnson pledged to step down next month, both candidates also ruled out a role for the current PM in the government.
"I am sure he will have a role. I am sure he will be vocal, but he will not be part of the government," said the foreign secretary, despite being an early supporter of Johnson's whereas Sunak deliberated a strict "No" over Johnson's involvement in the cabinet if he becomes Britain's next Prime Minister.
Notably, Sunak and Truss will take part in another head-to-head debate on TalkTV on Tuesday night, media reports claimed.
Last week, Sunak and UK foreign secretary Liz Truss emerged as the final two candidates in the country's leadership race of the ruling Conservative party.
International Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt was knocked out in the final round of ballot among Conservative lawmakers. Sunak won 137 votes and Truss 113. The contest to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister will now go before the Conservative Party's 200,000-odd dues-paying members, who will select the winner later this summer via mail-in ballot. The winner, to be announced on September 5, will automatically become Johnson's successor.
Though Sunak has won each of the five rounds of voting by lawmakers, a YouGov poll published on Tuesday showed that he was less popular with the party's grassroots. He is predicted to lose to Truss, a favourite of the party's right-wing, in the head-to-head contest.
Both candidates have made pledges on tax cuts as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite. However, Sunak dismissed as "fairytales" his rivals' promises of immediate tax cuts, arguing that inflation must be brought under control first.
Inflation in Britain rose by 9.4 per cent in June, hitting a fresh 40-year high, official statistics showed on Wednesday. Truss, on the other hand, promised to start cutting taxes from day one.
The Tory leadership race was triggered after Johnson was forced to step down on July 7 amid an avalanche of resignations of government officials, who protested against his scandal-plagued leadership. Johnson will continue to serve as caretaker prime minister until a new Tory leader succeeds him. (ANI)