UK leadership favorite Liz Truss scraps pay plan in first big misstep
By Andrew MacAskill and Kylie MacLellan
LONDON – UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, the favorite to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister, was forced to backtrack on one of her starkest promises a day after announcing it following a violent reaction from his conservative colleagues and opposition parties.
In the first big misstep of his campaign, Truss has outlined plans to save billions of pounds a year in government spending as part of a pledge that opponents say would require cutting the pay of public sector workers , including nurses and teachers, outside the affluent South East of England. .
Truss had said on Monday night that she would introduce regional pay councils rather than have a national pay deal, matching pay to the local cost of living.
But after criticism on Tuesday, Truss said: ‘It was never my intention to change the terms of service for teachers and nurses. But what I want to be clear is that I will not go ahead with regional compensation commissions.
The U-turn came as opinion polls showed widely varying pictures of the extent of Truss’ lead over rival Rishi Sunak.
A July 19-27 survey of 807 Conservative Party members by Italian data firm Techne found Truss had 48% support, compared with 43% for former finance minister Sunak.
By contrast, a YouGov poll for The Times newspaper, conducted from July 29 to August 2, showed Truss had extended his lead. She had the support of 60% of members compared to Sunak’s 26%, with the rest of the 1,043 members surveyed either undecided or not planning to vote.
A previous YouGov poll from July 20-21 showed a split of 49% to 31% in favor of Truss.
Shortly before the latest poll, the Daily Mail newspaper – one of Britain’s best-selling titles and popular among Tory voters – said it approved of Truss, despite his reversal.
“Mr. Sunak is a natural, albeit intelligent, technocrat; Miss Truss is a true standard-bearer of small-state, low-tax conservatism,” the newspaper said in an editorial.
Truss’s public sector pay plan had faced criticism from the main opposition Labor Party and some Tory lawmakers.
The Conservatives won the biggest majority in three decades in the 2019 national election by shaking up conventional British politics and winning in more industrial areas of central and northern England by pledging to reduce regional inequality.
A conservative lawmaker supporting Truss said the miscalculation would hurt the rest of the campaign.
“It was a completely avoidable mistake, but I don’t think it will ultimately prevent him from being prime minister,” he said.
Sunak supporter Ben Houchen, the Conservative mayor of Tees Valley in northeast England, said he was “speechless” at the proposal.
Millions of nurses, police officers and soldiers would have seen their salaries cut by 1,500 pounds ($1,830) a year, Sunak’s campaign said.
Rachel Reeves, Labour’s finance spokeswoman, said Truss’ plan would have sucked money from local communities.
“This latest mess has revealed exactly how Liz Truss feels about public sector workers across Britain,” she said.
Sunak and Truss are vying for the votes of around 200,000 Conservative members who will choose the next prime minister, with the winner announced on September 5.
Taxes have dominated the electoral race so far. Sunak accused Truss of being “dishonest” with voters over his promises of immediate tax cuts, saying he would wait until inflation was under control before cutting taxes. Truss says that would plunge the country into recession.
More than 60% of conservatives in the Techne poll said Truss had better ideas on taxation and inflation than Sunak. They also favored his immigration plans.
However, respondents said Sunak had better policies on Brexit and energy.
The YouGov poll showed a majority supporting Truss on the cost of living, migration and defence.
John Curtice, a professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde and one of Britain’s leading polling experts, said it was difficult to be certain the race was over for Sunak.
“In a race that has certainly seen some pretty radical and bold proposals made by both candidates…we certainly don’t know what impact that has had on the Tory membership as a whole,” he told GB News. .
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