Tory leadership election: Party split over leaked Rishi Sunak video


Tory MPs take a selfie after Rishi Sunak’s leaked comments (Image: PA)

Liz Truss would not deny that her campaign was behind the direction of a video in which Rishi Sunak made controversial comments about his approach to economics.

Footage has emerged of the former Chancellor boasting about changing the rules to stop money being diverted to “deprived urban areas”.

It has put the Conservative Party’s stance on left-behind areas back in the spotlight after the Foreign Secretary proposed policies that would have cut wages for government workers outside the South East.

The controversial statements have sparked renewed controversy at a crucial stage in the race for the post of next prime minister.

It’s the latest instance of infighting in a race in which the Conservative Party has struggled to present anything approaching a united front and dirty-trick allegations have previously surfaced.

The Cabinet Office has already been ordered to investigate a leak about former candidate Penny Mordaunt after details of a policy debate were released in her old department.

Speaking to Tory members in Royal Tubridge Wells on July 29, Mr Sunak said: “I’ve managed to change the funding formulas to ensure areas like this get the funding they deserve because we have a range of formulas inherited from Labor who have shifted funding to deprived urban areas and this had to be reversed.

‘I’ve started work on undoing that.’

Sunak and Truss

The last two candidates in the race for number 10 have been very critical (Image: AP/AFP)

When asked about the video provided to The New Statesman, Liz Truss refused, saying her campaign had nothing to do with it.

She told reporters, “I’m running a positive campaign.

“My campaign is about how we unlock the potential of Britain, how we get the economy moving in these difficult times and how we get investment in amazing places like the West Midlands.”

Foreign Secretary Lord Zac Goldsmith called the comment “one of the strangest – and stupidest – things I’ve ever heard from a politician”.

Jake Berry, leader of Tory MPs’ Northern Research Group, criticized Mr Sunak for his “bragging about diverting key investment away from disadvantaged areas”.

The Sunak campaign defended the comments, arguing that he had amended the Treasury Department’s green paper, which sets the rules for government spending, to help cities and rural areas that also need investment.

Speaking to a Tory husting in Eastbourne on Friday night, he told Sky News: “I have pointed out that deprivations exist across our country and need to be addressed.

Rishi Sunak, candidate to become Britain's next Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, attends a campaign rally in Tunbridge Wells, Kent July 29, 2022. - The result of the Conservative leadership election will be announced on September 5th. (Photo by PETER NICHOLLS/POOL/AFP) (Photo by PETER NICHOLLS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Sunak made the comment while speaking to Tory members in Kent last week (Image: AP)

“So we need to make sure our funding formulas take that into account. And people who need help and extra investment aren’t just limited to large urban areas. You can find them in cities across the UK and in rural areas too.”

Former Minister Andrew Mtchell, a supporter of Mr Sunak, insisted the comments had been “misunderstood” and said he advocated using city center funding on a “broader front”.

Ms Truss is the clear favorite to be the next resident of Number 10 and has built a 30 plus point lead in polls of Tory members.

But a major reversal in policies that would have resulted in government workers in less affluent areas being paid less than London and the South East slowed its momentum.

Although she is still the clear favourite, Mr Sunak’s supporters are questioning her judgment after a hasty retreat on politics, with a northern mayor calling her “insane”.

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Justin Scacco

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