Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have both made unforced errors this week.
The next general election may still be two years away, but Labour’s campaign material is already taking shape.
In the past week, both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak – one of whom will be Tory leader the next time the country goes to the polls – have provided Keir Starmer’s party with the type of ammunition they could only have dreamed about.
On Tuesday, Truss stunned her own party as well as the opposition by unveiling proposals to cut the pay of public sector workers in poorer parts of the country.
The plan would have seen the creation of “regional pay boards” tasked with imposing salaries reflecting the cost of living where the likes of civil servants, doctors, nurses and teachers are based.
That would save the public purse £8.8bn, the lion’s share of the £11bn the “Liz for Leader” press release said would be axed by cutting “Whitehall waste”.
Within hours, however, the policy was binned in a humiliating U-turn, with Truss trying to save face by claiming her plans had been “misinterpreted”.
Truss tried to make a virtue of the volte face by insisting it showed she was “honest and decisive”, but the Sunak camp couldn’t hide their glee, with one source telling journalists: “The lady is for turning.”
Proving that pride comes before a fall, however, it wasn’t long before the former chancellor’s own leadership campaign was also damaged by an entirely self-inflicted wound.
On Friday morning, footage emerged of Sunak boasting to Tory activists how he had changed Treasury rules to funnel public money away from “deprived urban areas”.
Truss-supporting Tories wasted no time in hammering their opponent, with environment minister Lord Goldsmith declaring it “one of the weirdest – and dumbest – things I’ve ever heard from a politician”.
Labour have sought to immediately capitalise on the Tory woes, with shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy saying of Sunak: “Talk about showing your true colours.”
But Labour chiefs are also squirrelling away every controversy, mis-speak and attempt to curry favour with the Tories’ right-wing base for use whenever the next general election comes.
“We can hardly believe our luck,” says one source. “Truss and Sunak are revealing the true face of the Tory Party and we’ll be making sure voters don’t forget it.”
The immediate embarrassment for Truss and Sunak will pass, but the long-term damage to the Conservatives’ re-election hopes have still to come to fruition.
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