Liz Truss campaign gets major boost as 11 Tory whips back her in latest blow to Rishi Sunak

Frontrunner Liz Truss is leading in the polls. Credit: PA

Liz Truss's campaign to become the next Conservative Party leader has received a major boost after 11 government whips declared their support.

In the latest blow to rival Rishi Sunak, who is lagging behind Ms Truss in the polls, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey shared a graphic on social media revealing the names of almost a dozen whips joining the ranks to back the foreign secretary.

This is despite Chief Whip Chris Heaton-Harris saying last month that his office would "stay neutral" throughout the contest.

But the policy has been lifted, confirmed Scott Mann, who is among the Tory whips pledging support for the frontrunner who he believes will make an "excellent prime minister".

The MP for North Cornwall said in a statement that the chief whip "has removed the requirement to remain publicly neutral as the leadership contest enters the last stages".

Craig Whittaker, another whip supporting the frontrunner, said it felt "great" to have the "shackles removed" and publicly declare who has his vote.

The Tory whips who have publicly backed Ms Truss alongside Mr Mann and Mr Whittaker are Stuart Anderson, David TC Davies, James Duddridge, David Evennett, Rebecca Harris, Adam Holloway, Gareth Johnson, Joy Morrissey, and Suzanne Webb.

Ms Truss and Mr Sunak face off in a hustings in Perth on Tuesday evening, before heading to Belfast for another on Wednesday.

Both are expected to be grilled on Scottish independence, devolution and their plans to tackle inflation during the Perth hustings.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know

Both Ms Truss and Mr Sunak have faced calls in recent days to take urgent action to tackle the cost of living crisis gripping households, even as Downing Street ruled out once again any co-ordination between Boris Johnson and his two would-be successors to offer more immediate solutions to the issue.

Mr Johnson has been accused of checking out by going on a second holiday just weeks before his premiership ends, while critics warn households cannot wait for the next PM to act.

The candidates are under increasing pressure to introduce emergency measures, as official figures revealed workers have been hit by a record pay slump with wages lagging behind inflation.

Keir Starmer accused the 'zombie government' of producing 'absolutely no plan' to help households when energy bills increase in autumn and again in January

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told ITV News on Monday he is willing to work with the next PM to help tackle the crisis - despite accusing Ms Truss and Mr Sunak of lacking any "credible plans" - as he announced he'd partly use a windfall tax on oil and gas companies to freeze households' soaring energy bills for six months.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Starmer called the government "completely out of touch" for assuming most people can afford the energy hikes as he defended his plans to offer all households a bill freeze - not only the poorest households.

But Ms Truss rejected “sticking plaster” approaches to tackle the spiralling crisis, as she appeared to dismiss Labour’s £29 billion emergency plan.

A mural on Hill Street in Belfast by Ciaran Gallagher Art, showing leadership rivals Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss as two boxers. Credit: PA

“We’re still in the leadership contest at the moment. Now, my priority is reducing taxes so people can keep more of their own money at the same time as making sure we boost energy supply," she said during a visit to a whisky distillery in Elgin, north-east of Inverness.

“It is wrong to just keep sticking plasters on this problem. What we actually need to do is make sure we are unleashing more energy, for example, from the North Sea.

“We’re investing in technologies like nuclear, and we’re finding more renewable energy as well.

“We need to solve this problem for the long term.”

But Mr Sunak’s campaign hit out at his rival on Tuesday, urging her to “come clean” on her cost-of-living plan.

A campaign spokesperson said: “It’s not good enough to say wait until late September. Families need certainty now – bills are going to go up and wages have taken a hammer blow from rising inflation.”