The newspaper coverage of the increasingly personal battle between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss for the Tory leadership reveals a fascinating picture of the party’s divisions.
The tone of the front pages of titles that were most loyal to Boris Johnson are strongly in favour of the foreign secretary, with the chancellor struggling to shake off his image as the man who knifed the outgoing prime minister.
The Telegraph goes in hard with its lead story on Truss’s unfavourable comparison between Sunak and the former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown. “PM Sunak would be a new Gordon Brown, claims Truss”, and reports her claim that her rival’s refusal to cut taxes straight away would usher in a recession.
The Express also focuses on the tax issue, which is one of the few signs of clear blue water between the candidates with Truss positioning herself as the don’t-tax-but-spend-anyway choice to Sunak’s more sober view that the country probably can’t afford another tax giveaway. “The great divide … tax cuts now or later”, its splash reads in a clear nod that Truss has the Crusader’s vote.
The Mail sees the spirit of Margaret Thatcher in Truss and proclaims in its splash headline: “Truss vow to curb militant unions”, adding that “Liz unveils blueprint to stop strikes crippling Britain”.
The Times’ lead story says “Bitter Tory rivals get personal”, reporting that the two candidates ignored pleas from party grandees to end the “blue on blue” hostilities in the television debate.
“Tory leadership rivals trade blows over tax and inflation” is the headline in the Guardian and highlights Sunak’s attack on Truss’s plans to borrow and spend rather than raise taxes.
Metro also gives greater play to Sunak’s attacking lines which included the jibe that Truss’s economic plans would push the country into recession. “You’ll lose us the next election”, says Metro.
The i says “Gloves are off: Tory contest turning nasty”.
The Financial Times went to print a bit too early to capture the action on its front page and leads instead on “Fears of European gas crisis mount as Russia cuts Nord Stream 1 flows”. It also carries a cautionary story for the two candidates as they plot Britain’s post-Brexit place in the world economy. “Homegrown red tape doubles Brexit bill for chemical companies to £2bn”.
The Sun leads on a report that Cristiano Ronaldo is heading back to Manchester for talks aimed at securing an exit from Old Trafford – “Ron his way” – while the Mirror’s lead is a crime investigation: “Kids sold deadly knives”.