> Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss serve up ‘red meat’ policies to tempt Tory members | Conservative leadership

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss serve up ‘red meat’ policies to tempt Tory members | Conservative leadership

It’s not just barbecues that red meat is being tossed on to in the sweltering summer temperatures.

As the Tory leadership contest hots up, a platter of hardline policies is being offered to party members by Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, in a bid to whet appetites and boost support in the race to become Britain’s prime minister.

The term “Operation red meat”, coined during the dying months of Boris Johnson’s government, saw No 10 pivot to pursuing divisive agendas that were nonetheless popular with the party’s base.

Now after years of hungering for a prime minister with more Conservative principles, members are being treated to a leadership election in which they are the main audience and must be courted for their vote.

Research from the group More in Common found Conservative party members cared more than the general public about the issue of handling refugees trying to cross the Channel in small boats.

And so this weekend has seen Truss and Sunak compete to promote the hardline approach they would take on immigration, both committing to Johnson’s policy of deporting to Rwanda those who come to the UK by irregular routes.

Truss has a commanding lead in the polls and the support of key figures on the right of the party such as attorney general Suella Braverman, so Sunak is having to scramble to shore up support from the same wing.

It was with this in mind that the former chancellor laid out a 10-point plan for immigration, which included narrowing down the number of people who can qualify to be granted asylum status, withdrawing aid from countries that fail to cooperate on returns and striking more Rwanda-style removal deals with other countries.

Not to be outdone, Truss’s campaign also announced Truss would also “pursue more third-country processing partnership schemes”, vowed not to cower to the European convention on human rights and look at more “turnaround tactics” for those migrants on small boats who try to cross the Channel.

The proposals were variously described as “cruel” and “dismal” by charities. “This shows that the heat of campaigning leads to bad policy,” said Sam Nadel of Oxfam. “If the former chancellor wins this race, he will be more than a party leader, he will be prime minister and a world leader.”

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With an audience that is much more hardline than the general public, Sunak and Truss are happy for the time being to engage in a battle over which one has the most extreme immigration policies.

But that may change when the winner is confronted with having to win over tens of millions of voters instead of about 180,000 party members.

There are Conservatives who are unhappy with the direction the contest has taken and who consider the Rwanda plan to represent appalling value for money, as a potential breach of human rights law and to be damaging to future trading relationships.

But they are essentially voiceless in a contest where both candidates know that, in order to win, they must impress the members who have been waiting, hungrily, for “red meat”.

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