UK: Rishi Sunak surprises with debate win over rival Truss
Rishi Sunak on Thursday looked to pull off a surprise victory in front of a studio audience in a crucial debate with front-runner Liz Truss in the campaign to become the next prime minister of Britain. The audience strongly favored Sunak in a show of hands during the Sky News debate. Notably, opinion polls backed Truss to win the vote among Conservative party members.
- Sunak resigned as Finance Minister on July 5, in protest against the Boris Johnson-led administration's misconduct in the United Kingdom (UK), including sexual misconduct by a senior government member.
- Although Johnson continues as a caretaker Prime Minister (PM) till the Conservatives elect their new leader, Sunak is seen as the leading contender to succeed the US-born Johnson as the UK's 78th PM.
Presenter Kay Burley had grilled Truss harshly, going over her policy U-turns and asking the question. A damning statement made by Truss' campaign team on Monday that the government could save £8.8 billion ($10.75 billion) a year if it paid lower pay to public sector employees who lived outside of London caused Truss to do another U-turn.
"You wanted to cut civil servants' pay in the regions and then you said you didn't," Burley commented following Truss' policy reversals. Later, Truss claimed that the concept was being misconstrued. "Should good leaders own their mistakes, or should they blame others?" Burley inquired, to which flustered Truss said, "I'm not blaming anyone else," but that the policy had been misunderstood.
Burley also pressed Truss on her statements shortly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine that she would support British soldiers fighting on the Ukrainian side. British fighters have now been apprehended and convicted as mercenaries, and face the death penalty in the rebel area of Donetsk. Truss emphasized that British citizens should never visit Ukraine.
Sunak was also grilled and made a remark about his choice of loafers. "People feel that you can't walk a mile in their shoes because you're walking in your Prada shoes," Burley told Sunak, whose father-in-law is a millionaire. The presenter mocked Sunak's insistence on his humble roots as he mentioned that his father was a doctor in the national health service (NHS).
Sunak remarked that people might have heard on this campaign that he grew up in an NHS family. "He never mentions it!" Burley chimed in. In the end, Sunak received more hands than Truss, which the presented acknowledged was unexpected. The outcome of the vote between Truss and Sunak to choose who would succeed PM Johnson will be announced on September 5. .