Rishi Sunak's message in UK PM race debate was all about honestytext_fields
LONDON: Honesty was at the heart of UK prime ministerial front-runner Rishi Sunak's message as he faced off against his four remaining rivals in the first televised debate of the race to replace Boris Johnson as the leader of the Conservative Party.
Former chancellor Mr Sunak is sticking to his economic plan of prudency over immediate tax cuts against Foreign Secretary Liz Truss' promise to cut taxes from day one if she is elected as the new incumbent PM.
Among the top three candidates is Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt, who wants to cut some taxes, while Kemi Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat are a little more measured to outline their plans over the dominant issue of the race.
As the Friday night debate on Channel 4 got heated Sunak told Truss, "You have to be honest. Borrowing your way out of inflation isn't a plan, it's a fairytale," and rubbished her proposals and warned against an "unfunded spree" of tax cuts.
When asked about the partygate, all five candidates agreed that Johnson was less honest with parties at Downing Street with Tugendhat the only candidate to say "No" when asked if he trusted the outgoing PM.
A Snap poll from Opinium on who performed better after 90 minutes of lively exchanges saw Tugendhat as the winner with 36 per cent of the vote, while Sunak won 24 per cent.
Mordaunt and Badenoch had 12 per cent of the vote, while Truss trailed on 7 per cent.
The latest betting odds analysis shows Mordaunt leading the bookies' favourites, followed by Sunak, Truss, Badenoch and Tugendhat.
All five candidates will face off in a televised debate on Sunday before a third round of voting on Monday, with Conservative MPs who will narrow the field as the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated from the race until just two are left.
Earlier on Friday, as candidates fielded questions from members at an online Tory Party Zoom campaign event, Sunak declared that his biggest weakness was striving for perfection.
"I think you've got to make sure that you don't let perfect be the enemy of the good," he said.
Tory members of Parliament consider the first British Indian politician to run for the prime minister as a favourite. He had come out on top in the first two rounds of voting and is widely expected to reach the final two by Thursday.
The leadership battle will now focus on who will take him on from second place as the election spreads to around 200,000 Tory members across the UK.
Mordaunt is seen as the current preference among these voters, but as the final two candidates travel around the country for the hustings to make their pitch for the Tory vote, things could change.
It will be known by September 5 who the winner of that postal ballot to determine who will be the next Conservative Party leader and the new British Prime Minister will be.
With inputs from PTI