Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss went to blows in the first one-to-one live debate for the next leader of the Conservative Party.
During the hour, various topics were covered by the two, including economic policy, china, and the environment.
After the hour and reflections on the performances by the two candidates, it was an encounter with a lot of bark but not much bite, which will help the Labour Party.
What went down?
Answering who won or lost in this television debate is complex. It was constant back and forth and lots of locking heads. Both candidates are divided on the party’s future and, more importantly, the country’s. With Sunak, he is taking the realist approach by backing higher taxes and a more cautious economic strategy. On the other, you have Truss, who believes lower taxes is the way. You could see such opposites throughout the debate. Sunak accused Truss of risking a vast increase in interest rates, while she accused Sunak of “scaremongering” and “Project Fear.”
China’s relationship with the United Kingdom was also spoken about between the two candidates. Both warned of the threat from the Chinese state but were divided on who came to such a view first. Sunak wants a clampdown on Confucious Institutions in the country, while Truss wants a clampdown on Chinese-owned companies like TikTok. Away from the insults that they both threw at each other, this talking point lacked details and measures to combat China. The environment was mentioned briefly, with both candidates taking differing approaches. Sunak supports targets for cutting emissions by 2050, while Truss would suspend the “green levy”, a tax that will be part of people’s energy bills that helps pay for social and green projects.
There were some pleasant exchanges between the two out of an overall toxic discussion. Both of them commented on each other’s dress senses. They also said they would have each other in their cabinets if they became the next leader. How true this is post-September is up for question. This is especially true when Truss’s team claimed Sunak had been “mansplaining” in the debate. A spokesman for Liz Truss said: “Rishi Sunak has tonight proven he is not fit for office. His aggressive mansplaining and shouty private school behaviour is desperate, unbecoming and is a gift to Labour.”
A hostile stalemate
It was a contentious debate between Sunak and Truss, which was expected. Post-reaction of the discussion shows Sunak slightly ahead of Truss by 39-38, according to a poll of 1000 voters. A survey done by Opinium showed that Tory voters thought Truss did better by 47-38, while Labour voters thought Sunak had the better performance. There is a broader worry that the toxicity and the nastiness that this contest has become is favouring the Labour Party. Sir Keir Starmer will be licking his lips and rubbing his hands in joy over such a hostile stalemate that this debate was. None of the candidates brought anything new and exciting that was unexpected. Sunak showed that he is a very unrelatable private school child constantly needing attention by shouting over the top of someone else just to make a point. Truss is even worse. She portrays herself as this trustworthy, astute figure, but she is anything but that and is more of a car-boot-sell Margaret Thatcher.
Who will win this contest is still in the balance. Sunak needs to do more to win back conservative voters, especially with how polls look. Winning back voters will be Sunak’s aim for the next debate in August. For Truss, she needs to come out of her shell a bit more. Even though she is right that actions speak louder than words, in debates, words and performance are the things that matter more. This debate was not for the history books as it lacked the cutting edge for viewers. Labour will look at this debate and the leadership contest as a stepping stone into number 10 Downing Street and a way to chuck out the Conservatives, who have outstayed their welcome.