Rishi Sunak has described himself as an 'underdog' to Tory Party members as he claimed he is the only leadership candidate telling the truth about taxation.
Speaking to the party faithful in Margaret Thatcher's birthplace of Grantham in Lincolnshire, Mr Sunak repeated his attacks on Ms Truss and her economic vision in a speech that was heavy with warnings about the dangers of inflation.
Tax cuts have dominated discussion in the leadership race far, with Mr Sunak seeking to portray himself as a Thatcherite custodian of the public finances in the face of a raft of tax cuts promised by rival Liz Truss.
The Foreign Secretary, who has said she is running an “insurgent” campaign to become the next Prime Minister, has said that her promises of tax cuts will help curb soaring inflation.
“We have to tell the truth about the cost of living and that there is no answer to this problem other than to grip inflation and bring it down,” Mr Sunak told a mostly friendly crowd on Saturday.
The former chancellor said: “I will deliver more tax cuts.
“I’ve already made real progress as chancellor, but I will not put money back in your pocket knowing that rising inflation will only whip it straight back out.”
Mr Sunak told the crowd he would deliver “tax cuts you can believe in”.
But he said those cuts would have to wait, telling the crowds: “We can cut more taxes, but only if we defeat the enemy of inflation.
“And that can only happen if we are honest about the ravages it cause.
“We must see the danger in front of us and act, not pretend like it isn’t happening, or more dreadful still, make the situation worse, putting people’s homes and savings at risk.
“I will deliver a lower tax economy.
“I will deliver tax cuts but tax cuts you can believe in.”
Mr Sunak took aim at his rival’s Brexit credentials in his speech on Saturday morning, which was heavy on warnings about the dangers of inflation and the need for a new “radicalism” in government.
He 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”.
Elsewhere in his speech, Mr Sunak sought to create a clear dividing line between himself and Ms Truss as he implicitly criticised her proposed tax cuts, which she says will help decrease inflation.
“If we are to deliver on the promise of Brexit, then we’re going to need someone who actually understands Brexit, believes in Brexit, voted for Brexit,” he told the crowd, to cheers.
In a speech punctuated by frequent applause, he also said: “We have to tell the truth about the cost of living.
“Rising inflation is the enemy that makes everyone poorer and puts at risk your homes and your savings. And we have to tell the truth about tax.
“I will not put money back in your pocket knowing that rising inflation will only whip it straight back out.”
He called for the need for radicalism in politics, telling the crowd: “Real change is there, I swear it.”
That change includes a promised plan to tackle NHS backlogs, driven in part by a so-called “vaccines-style” taskforce.
Warning against “privatisation by the back door”, Mr Sunak announced plans to eliminate one-year NHS waiting times six months earlier than planned by September 2024, and to get overall numbers falling by next year.
The legacy and influence of Mrs Thatcher has overshadowed the Tory leadership campaign so far, with both candidates seemingly bidding to claim the mantle of the Tory grandee.
Mr Sunak, who was joined on his Grantham visit by daughters Krishna and Anushka, as well as wife Akshata Murthy, laughed when pressed on whether the choice of location was a coincidence, telling reporters he believes what he is proposing is “common sense Thatcherism”.
His speech appeared to go down well with those watching.
Ben Lavender, 18, from Grantham, said while he intended to vote for Mr Sunak, he thought the chances of victory were “50/50”.
He added: “He seemed very charismatic. I think watching the debate the other night he seems more charismatic than Liz Truss.”
Juliet Donoghue, a former member of Rushcliffe Borough Council said she thought he was “amazing”.
She added: “I was impressed with him. I think he’s got a background in health and I feel he’s a man of integrity.”
His supporters have said that Mr Sunak is the only candidate in the race with a clear plan for the country, with Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday morning that his candidate had set out a “credible” plan on the economy and on the NHS.
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