Liz Truss extends her poll lead over Rishi Sunak by 34 points despite being forced into U-turn over plans to slash public sector pay
- Liz Truss has gained the support of 60% of Tories against 26% for Rishi Sunak
- This is despite pledging to save £8.8b on public sector pay and then U-turning
- Tory mayor Ben Houchen said she would cut pay for 5.5m – including NHS nurses
- Miss Truss insisted she would never change pay terms for teachers and nurses
- Poll of Tory members shows 74% said she was in touch with ordinary people
The Foreign Secretary has extended her lead over Rishi Sunak by 34 points despite being forced to abandon part of her planned war on Whitehall waste.
Liz Truss, who has for weeks been the favourite to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister, is supported by 60 per cent of Conservative members, a survey for The Times revealed last night.
Just 26 per cent said they were backing former chancellor Mr Sunak, who has been launching a policy blitz in a bid to catch up with his rival.
Liz Truss, who has for weeks been the favourite to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister, is supported by 60 per cent of Conservative members. Pictured: Liz Truss during her visit to Twelve Oaks Farm in Newton Abbot, Devon, as part of her leadership campaign
Just 26 per cent of Tory members said they were backing former chancellor Mr Sunak (pictured), who has been launching a policy blitz in a bid to catch up with his rival
Miss Truss bolstered her lead despite pledging on Monday night to save £8.8billion by ending the process where civil servants’ pay is set nationally.
Her campaign said the introduction of regional pay boards would not only save money, by paying staff in the North or South West less than those in London, but also boost growth in areas where private firms struggle to match state wages.
But the policy was criticised by many who claimed that it would mean a pay cut for millions of public sector workers.
Tees Valley’s Tory mayor Ben Houchen said: ‘There is simply no way you can do this without a massive pay cut for 5.5million people including nurses, police officers and our armed forces outside London.’
The policy unravelled within a few hours yesterday morning after critics – including many in Miss Truss’s own party – warned it would undermine the Tories’ drive to ‘level up’ the country including the areas of the North and Midlands that secured the party’s majority at the last election.
St Austell and Newquay MP Steve Double said: ‘This would be hugely damaging to public services in Cornwall where we already struggle to recruit NHS staff.
‘The billions saved would be coming straight out of rural economies. This is levelling down, not up.’
Yesterday Miss Truss’s campaign ditched the plan for regional pay boards. A spokesman said: ‘Over the last few hours there has been a wilful misrepresentation of our campaign. Current levels of public sector pay will absolutely be maintained. Anything to suggest otherwise is simply wrong.
‘Our hard-working frontline staff are the bedrock of society and there will be no proposal taken forward on regional pay boards for civil servants or public sector workers.’
Speaking for the first time about the U-turn, Miss Truss insisted: ‘I never had any intention of changing the terms and conditions of teachers and nurses. But what I want to be clear about is I will not be going ahead with the regional pay boards. That is no longer my policy.’
And asked if it had been an error of judgment, she said: ‘I’m being absolutely honest, I’m concerned that people were worried – unnecessarily worried – about my policies and therefore I’m being clear that the regional pay boards will not go ahead.’
‘There is simply no way you can do this without a massive pay cut for 5.5million people including nurses, police officers and our armed forces outside London,’ said Tory critic of Liz Truss Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen. Pictured: Rishi Sunak (left) speaks with Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, during a visit to Teesside Freeport, Teesworks, in Redcar
Mr Sunak’s camp had hoped that the hostile reception to Miss Truss’s plans and her U-turn would have helped turn the contest in his favour.
But the latest poll shows just 26 per cent backing for the former chancellor, while Miss Truss is 34 points ahead of Mr Sunak.
The Foreign Secretary is more popular among all age groups and regions across the country, with Mr Sunak only coming out on top with Remain voters, last night’s YouGov poll revealed.
Conservative members said Miss Truss trounced Mr Sunak on the major issues, with 55 per cent saying she would handle the cost of living situation more effectively, while more than two-thirds backed her defence plans.
Some 74 per cent said she was in touch with ordinary people, which compared to just 11 per cent for Mr Sunak.
The findings suggest Miss Truss’s campaign has gained huge momentum in recent weeks.
The previous YouGov poll – in the wake of Penny Mordaunt’s elimination from the leadership race – had just an 18-point gap between the final two contenders.
Miss Truss then gained momentum after a series of Cabinet ministers and other big names in the Conservative Party threw their weight behind her.
Her calls for immediate tax cuts have also been well received while Mr Sunak initially rejected similar promises before belatedly saying VAT on energy bills should be removed.
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