Rishi Sunak labels himself the underdog with a focus on NHS while Liz Truss takes aim at EU laws

Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt reports on a day of campaigning by the Tory leadership hopefuls

The two Tory leadership hopefuls have revealed their latest pledges as the contest heats up to replace Boris Johnson.

Rishi Sunak set out his plans to tackle NHS backlogs on Saturday, in his first major speech since reaching the final stage of the race.

In the speech in Grantham, birthplace of former PM Margaret Thatcher, the former chancellor pledged to create a so-called "vaccines style" taskforce on day one of his premiership dedicated to tackling NHS backlogs, warning that such delays are creating a "back door" to privatisation.

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Liz Truss, meanwhile, has vowed to review all EU laws retained after Brexit by the end of next year if she becomes PM, and to scrap or replace those that are deemed to hinder UK growth.

The foreign secretary believes that a red tape bonfire will "encourage business investment and boost growth," her campaign said on Friday.

The whittling down of the Tory leadership contenders to just two this week marked the beginning of the next stage of the contest to replace Mr Johnson, with the two candidates now tasked with wooing the grassroots Tory party members who will vote for the next prime minister.

The details of Sunak's pledge:

Mr Sunak announced plans to eliminate one-year waiting times six months earlier than planned by September 2024, and to get overall numbers falling by next year.

NHS figures published earlier this month showed ambulance response times have got significantly worse and hospital waiting lists are at an all-time high.

"From day one I will make tackling the NHS backlog my number one public service priority," the former chancellor said.

Mr Sunak’s five-point plan will include the creation of a backlogs taskforce, while also requiring all hospital trusts to audit waiting lists within a month.

He also backs a plan to expand the number of community diagnostic hubs by repurposing 58,000 vacant high street shops, with the aim of boosting the number of such hubs to 200 by March 2024.

Rishi Sunak delivers a speech at Vaculug tyre specialists at Gonerby Hill Foot, Grantham. Credit: PA

Mr Sunak took aim at his rival’s Brexit credentials in his speech, which was heavy on warnings about the dangers of inflation and the need for a new "radicalism" in government.

Speaking to a mostly friendly crowd, he called himself the "underdog" but stopped short of naming Ms Truss personally.

He told the crowd: "The forces that be want this to be a coronation for the other candidate. But I think members want a choice and they are prepared to listen."

Pressed by reporters to be more specific, he said he was talking "generically".

The details of Truss's pledge:

The foreign secretary, who voted Remain in the 2016 referendum, is pitching herself as the "best candidate to deliver on the opportunities of Brexit".

Ms Truss said that, if elected, she would set a "sunset" deadline for every piece of EU-derived business regulation and assess whether it stimulates domestic growth or investment by the end of 2023.

Industry experts would be tasked to create "better home-grown laws" to replace those that fail the test, if they are not ditched altogether.

But questions are likely to be raised over the feasibility of combing through more than 2,000 pieces of legislation in under a year and a half while the Civil Service faces cutbacks.

And critics warned the proposal could damage workers’ rights.