Rishi Sunak trolled Liz Truss for backing Remain in the referendum tonight as the five surviving Tory leadership hopefuls faced off in another live TV debate.
The former chancellor, Ms Truss, Penny Mordaunt, Kemi Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat are clashing in the second televised showdown, being hosted by ITV.
With one more candidate set to be eliminated in the next instalment of voting by MPs tomorrow, Mr Sunak looks set to make the run off ballot by Tory members, having topped the previous rounds.
However, there is a huge struggle for the other spot in the final contest.
Earlier, Mr Sunak trolled Ms Truss for backing Remain in 2016, describing how he defied warnings that his career would be over to support Brexit, and pledging that as PM he would scrap or overhaul all legacy EU laws.
A video posted on Twitter said Mr Sunak campaigned ‘relentlessly’ to cut ties with Brussels – and displayed an image of Ms Truss out banging the drum for keeping ties.
The old-fashioned style black-and-white ended with the voiceover pointedly tagging Mr Sunak as ‘a real Brexiteer from day one’.
Meanwhile, Penny Mordaunt vented fury at ‘smears’ and ‘toxic politics’ as she struggles to stop her PM bid being derailed by a backlash at her trans rights stance.
The trade minister angrily denied claims she wanted to bring in gender self-identification as she took to the airwaves ahead of the latest TV debate tonight. She said there were ‘a number of smears’ being peddled and her colleagues were ‘upset’ at the way rivals were conducting the contest.
The intervention came as a ConservativeHome survey suggested Ms Mordaunt has dramatically lost ground in the race. Shock results last week found she would defeat all comers in a head-to-head ballot of Tory members – but it now appears she would be defeated by both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.
Ms Truss has been appealing for right-wingers to unite behind her – and Kemi Badenoch has also been putting in a strong showing.
Although foreign affairs committee chair Tom Tugendhat seems to have the least backing from MPs in the remaining field, he was seen as performing well in the first debate on Friday night.
Rishi Sunak (pictured in Teeside on Friday) has moved to burnish his credentials by describing how he defied warnings that his career would be over to support Leave at the referendum
A video posted on Twitter (left) says Mr Sunak campaigned ‘relentlessly’ for Brexit – and displays a image of Ms Truss (right) out banging the drum for Remain
Penny Mordaunt angrily denied claims she wanted to bring in gender self-identification as she took to the airwaves ahead of the latest TV debate tonight
HOW THE TORY LEADERSHIP RACE WILL BE FOUGHT
Tonight: ITV hosts the second televised debate between leadership candidates.
Tomorrow – A third ballot of Tory MPs will be held which will see the candidate with the lowest number of votes eliminated.
Tuesday – More ballots will be held for the rest of the week until the list of contenders is whittled down to a final two.
Tuesday night – Sky News hosts the third and final leadership debate.
21st July – MPs will head away from Westminster for their summer break, meaning this is the deadline for a final pairing to be decided in the parliamentary stage of the leadership election.
Late July and August – CCHQ will assume responsibility for leadership election and will send out ballot papers to around 200,000 Conservative Party members. The Tory grassroots will be asked to decide between the final two candidates, with hustings events to be held across the UK.
5th September – The result of the membership ballot is announced, with the candidate receiving more than 50 per cent of the vote being declared the new Tory leader and Boris Johnson’s replacement as Prime Minister.
6th September – The new Tory leader is likely to be formally appointed as PM during a visit to the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
7th September – The new PM is set to be quizzed in the House of Commons in their first ever Prime Minister’s Questions.
Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme, Ms Mordaunt denied reports that she had pushed through a policy to end the requirement for trans people to obtain a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria before they could legally change gender when she was equalities minister in Theresa May’s government.
‘This has been rebutted many times. We all know what is going on. This is the type of toxic politics people want to get away from,’ she said.
‘We did a consultation. We asked healthcare professionals what they thought about the situation. That is the section I looked after. I managed that consultation. We didn’t actually on my shift produce a policy.
‘There is a number of smears going on in the papers. My colleagues are very angry and upset that this is how the leadership contest is being dragged down.’
Former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith, who is backing Ms Truss, turned up the heat on Ms Mordaunt by saying he did not know what her ‘big achievements are’.
‘Liz Truss is open, Rishi Sunak is open, Kemi is open but the one person that I personally don’t know what her big achievements are is Penny,’ he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
‘I don’t have any problem with her but for me, the key thing is we are not electing a leader of the Conservative party that has two years to build their reputation, we are electing someone who will be Prime Minister on day one so you need to know, when they have power and authority in government, what will they do with it?
‘I know what the others have done so I want to know what does she believe her big achievements are and where was she actually fighting for things, how many hours did she spend working at this, where did she face those tough decisions?’
He also attacked Ms Sunak for fuelling rampant inflation by failing to stop the Bank of England pushing on with quantitative easing – effectively printing more money.
‘So, first of all, over a year ago – and this is important – the Bank actually kept on printing huge sums of money which has inflated the economy… ‘ he said.
‘It was the Treasury that signed off on that money printing, the Chancellor no less, and so before they say ‘Oh it’s independent’, the Treasury has the right to say no to the money printing bit but they didn’t and that has fuelled inflation, so inflation is now domestically a problem we have to deal with.’
In a fresh pitch to win over Brexiteers, Mr Sunak has promised to scrap hundreds of remaining EU laws and regulations if he wins the keys to No10.
He would appoint a Brexit minister to go through the 2,400 EU laws still on the statute book, and recommend which should be scrapped or overhauled within 100 days of Mr Sunak entering No 10.
In an article for the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Sunak stressed that he had always backed Brexit even though he had been warned it could damage his political career.
‘I was advised by people I respected not just that leaving the EU was a bad idea for Britain; they also warned me that backing Brexit would mean the end of my political career,’ Mr Sunak said.
‘I listened to the advice, took it seriously, and weighed my decision carefully. But none of it altered my conviction that Britain would be better of f outside the EU, unshackled from its low-growth, bureaucratic mindset.’
Blow for Rishi as TWO-THIRDS of Britons say rich politicians can’t understand the struggles of ordinary people
Rishi Sunak suffered a blow today as a poll found over two-thirds of Britons believe ultra-wealthy politicians cannot identify with normal people’s struggles
Rishi Sunak suffered a blow today as a poll found over two-thirds of Britons believe ultra-wealthy politicians cannot identify with normal people’s struggles.
The former Chancellor – reputed to be the richest MP in the Commons with a billionaire heiress wife – is also rated as the most out of touch of the candidates to take over from Boris Johnson.
The findings, in exclusive research for MailOnline, came as the five remaining Tory leader hopefuls do battle for the top job – with crunch votes by MPs this week.
In a worrying sign for the Conservatives, the Redfield & Wilton Strategies survey suggests that the public want the new PM to call a snap general election – by 60 per cent to 24 per cent.
Mr Sunak said: ‘We need to capitalise on these opportunities by ditching the mass of unnecessary regulations and low-growth mentality we’ve inherited from the EU.
‘I have a plan, if elected prime minister, to have scrapped or reformed, by the time of the next election, all the EU law, red tape, and bureaucracy still on our statute book that is holding back our economy.
‘As prime minister, I would go further and faster in using the freedoms Brexit has given us to cut the mass of EU regulations and bureaucracy holding back our growth.
‘If we do this, we can get our economy growing quickly again and become the most prosperous country in Europe.’
The review would include an overhaul of the remaining EU financial services regulations with a view to triggering a ‘Big Bang 2.0’ for the City to enable it to maintain its status as a leading world financial centre.
Mr Sunak also indicated that he would overhaul EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules and speed up the clinical trials by cutting EU red tape.
Deputy PM Dominic Raab went into bat for Mr Sunak this morning, insisting Tory leadership candidates calling for tax cuts need to explain how they would be paid for.
Mr Raab told Sky News: ‘You can’t borrow your way out of an inflation crisis.
‘If people are suggesting we should make cuts to the NHS at a time not just of Covid, but all the other non-Covid NHS challenges, they have got to spell out where they are coming from.
‘We want to all leave people with more money in their pocket. But if you cut taxes and inflation robs people of that money because it is worthless or sees interest rates go up so their mortgage is more expensive, then frankly it is a false economy.’
Asked about comments by Liz Truss, who said that current policies had led to years of low growth, Mr Raab said: ‘Liz can answer for her policies and her record.
‘She was chief secretary in the Treasury. People can see whether spending and the head count in the Civil Service went up or down. That’s for them to work out.’
Appearing on the BBC, Mr Tugendhat repeated his argument that the party needs a ‘clean start’ after three years of Boris Johnson.
He said it was clear that the Prime Minister’s account of Partygate was ‘rather more fictional than reality’.
‘What we need to see is a clean start. That is the most essential issue. In two years’ time we are going to be facing Keir Starmer in a general election,’ he said.
‘We need to make sure that all the attack lines that have been used against us in the last three years don’t come back in a general election.
‘We need to make sure absolutely that what we are able to deliver is championing Conservative policies and deliver a Conservative vision for the future.’
Mr Tugendhat dodged on whether he would serve under Mr Sunak, who also received a fine for breaching lockdown laws.
The latest ConservativeHome poll shows Ms Badenoch on 31 per cent – with Ms Truss, Ms Mordaunt and Mr Sunak bunched together on around 20 per cent. Although the survey is not scientific it is closely watched by MPs and ministers.
Mr Sunak topped the first two rounds of voting by MPs, although he still remains short of the 120 votes needed to guarantee him a place in the final run-off ballot.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Ms Truss said she would seek to abolish ‘Stalinist’ housing targets – unpopular with some Tory MPs – if she was elected.
‘I want to abolish the top down Whitehall inspired Stalinist housing targets. I think that’s the wrong way to generate economic growth,’ she said.
‘The best way to generate economic growth is bottom up by creating those incentives for investment through the tax system, simplifying regulations.’
Kemi Badenoch has also been putting in a strong performance and has been boosted by a ConservativeHome survey suggesting she is the favourite of activists
Foreign affairs committee chair Tom Tugendhat appears to have the least backing from MPs in the remaining field, but he was seen as performing well in the first debate on Friday night