UK’s next Prime Minister: Final two candidates and their chances of becoming Tory leader

Tory leadership candidates Liz Truss Rishi Sunak policies odds debate - Getty Images Europe
Tory leadership candidates Liz Truss Rishi Sunak policies odds debate - Getty Images Europe

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are battling to replace Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and prime minister after making it to the final two.

The pair traded blows in another fiery TV debate on Tuesday night, clashing over whether it was "morally wrong" to put up taxes or increasing borrowing. However, the debate was cut short when the presenter, Talk TV’s political editor Kate McCann, fainted on stage.

Penny Mordaunt, Kemi Badenoch, Tom Tugendhat, Suella Braverman, Jeremy Hunt and Nadhim Zahawi were all eliminated during earlier round of voting by MPs and now the grassroots members will pick their winner.

Here, we assess the chances of the final two candidates. The latest odds are from SkyBet.

We will keep this article updated.  

Rishi Sunak

Latest odds: 4/1

The man who helped bring down Boris Johnson by resigning as chancellor could yet succeed him despite the controversy earlier this year over his multi-millionaire-wife’s non-dom tax status and his own curious decision to retain a US green card during much of his time at the Treasury.

His biggest hurdle might be convincing Tories that his reluctance to cut taxes makes him fit to run the country, but the 42-year-old has the requisite experience and skills to step straight into the top job.

On Tuesday, the former chancellor was accused of a "screeching U-turn" on tax cuts as he vowed to scrap VAT on energy bills for a year if he becomes prime minister. In an apparent climbdown, he pledged to introduce the "temporary and targeted measure" to save £160 on the average household bill as energy prices soar this winter.

"I'll grip inflation and get you the help you need with your bills. I'll get our economy growing cutting EU red tape and getting our taxes down. And I will do whatever it takes to tackle illegal migration," he said in his opening debate statement on Tuesday.

He also revealed plans to reduce the country’s reliance on French ports in order to tackle supply chain problems that push up prices, and tighten benefits rules to get more people off welfare and into work.

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak's second head-to-head leadership debate was cancelled on Tuesday night after presenter Kate McCann fainted during the broadcast - PA
Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak's second head-to-head leadership debate was cancelled on Tuesday night after presenter Kate McCann fainted during the broadcast - PA

In Monday night's debate, Mr Sunak and Ms Truss clashed ferociously over whether to cut taxes, with the leadership contenders both saying the other would lead Britain to economic ruin.

The former chancellor said that the Foreign Secretary’s plans would drive up interest rates to 7 per cent and “tip millions of people into misery” through higher mortgage payments.

“It’s not moral to ask our children to pick up the tab for the bills we’re not prepared to pay. If we’re not for sound money, what is the point of the Conservative Party?” he said.

Speaking to The Telegraph in his first campaign interview on July 12, he pledged to model himself on Margaret Thatcher with responsible tax cuts.

Countering claims that his refusal to promise immediate tax cuts shows he is not a true conservative, Mr Sunak said that, by prioritising inflation, he was following the Iron Lady’s economic approach more than his rivals.

“We will cut taxes and we will do it responsibly,” he said. “That’s my economic approach. I would describe it as common sense Thatcherism. I believe that’s what she would have done.” You can read the full interview here

Laying out his position on foreign policy, Mr Sunak has pledged to close all Confucius Institutes, which teach Mandarin in universities and schools but are linked to the Chinese Communist Party, if he becomes prime minister.

Ms Truss has accused the former chancellor of “pushing for a closer trade relationship” with the country “as recently as a month ago”.

Mr Sunak also vowed to introduce a cap on refugee numbers, promising to “inject a healthy dose of common sense” into the asylum system.

In an opinion piece for The Telegraph on July 23, Mr Sunak said: "Every year thousands of people come into the UK illegally and often we don’t know where they are from or why they are here. The system is in disarray."

He has promised to create a new criminal offence for belonging to or facilitating grooming gangs, which would lead to tougher sentences, in a first glimpse into his approach on crime. He also called for criminals to spend longer in prison if they do not attend sentencing hearings and backed ministers getting a veto over parole board decisions.

Mr Sunak has insisted that he is not too rich to be Tory leader and prime minister, as he asked people to judge him on his actions and not his bank account.

He said he hoped his background, which has seen him amass a fortune in the City, would serve as an inspiration.

In another opinion piece for The Telegraph on July 21, Mr Sunak said: "My values are Thatcherite. I believe in hard work, family and integrity. I am a Thatcherite, I am running as a Thatcherite and I will govern as a Thatcherite."

Read his op-ed here.

Liz Truss

Latest odds: 1/6

Liz Truss is the frontrunner to be the next prime minister after a string of recent polls found Conservative Party members – who will decide the contest – favoured her over Mr Sunak.

In an opening statement at the debate on Tuesday, Ms Truss said she would "put money back in people's pockets from day one, driving growth and delivering opportunities from day one."

"It's wrong that we currently have the highest tax burden in this country that we've had for 70 years," she said.

Liz Truss during the TalkTV debate - PA
Liz Truss during the TalkTV debate - PA

Ms Truss attacked Mr Sunak's record, saying that the Government had been "going in the wrong direction on tax".

On Monday night, Ms Truss said her rival's plans to put business taxes up would push Britain into a recession. And she dismissed his warnings that her economic plan would stoke inflation as “scaremongering” and “Project Fear”, saying there was “no evidence” for it.

A snap poll for Survation found that Ms Truss fared better in the TV debate among Tory voters, beating Mr Sunak by 47 per cent to 38 per cent.

A government minister since 2012, Ms Truss is the longest continuously serving member of the Cabinet, having held four previous Cabinet posts. She launched her Tory leadership bid by promising to cut tax from “day one” in office, declaring that it was time to get back to Conservative values.

In an article for The Telegraph announcing her candidacy, the Foreign Secretary signalled that she would cut corporation tax, reverse the National Insurance rise and overhaul business rates.

Her tax-cutting agenda has been backed by a group of prominent economists, with seven offering their support for Ms Truss's plans for "timely, targeted and fully affordable tax cuts" in a letter to the Telegraph.

Conservative party leadership contender Liz Truss at Here East studios in Stratford, east London, before the live television debate for the candidates for leadership of the Conservative party, hosted by Channel 4. Picture date: Friday July 15, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Tories. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire - Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Conservative party leadership contender Liz Truss at Here East studios in Stratford, east London, before the live television debate for the candidates for leadership of the Conservative party, hosted by Channel 4. Picture date: Friday July 15, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Tories. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire - Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Ms Truss argued she could be trusted with Brexit despite voting Remain in the 2016 EU referendum as she held a launch event for her Tory leadership bid. She said: “We need to deliver Brexit and all the opportunities it offers. We need to win the fight for freedom at home and across the world.”

The Foreign Secretary on Tuesday unveiled a target to cut crime by 20 per cent in the next two-and-a-half years if she becomes prime minister. She said she would publish league tables on whether police forces were meeting targets in a bid to hold chief constables' "feet to the fire".

She also revealed plans to build 21st-century model villages to house the workers of “a new industrial revolution”. She vowed to transform disused brownfield sites up and down the country into “full-fat freeports” to turbocharge investment in Britain.

She  pledged to get private enterprises growing faster than the public sector and return the UK’s economic performance to pre-Brexit levels by the end of the decade.

Recently, Ms Truss said she would embark on a “bonfire of the quangos”, pledging to divert hundreds of millions of pounds from “bureaucratic bodies” to frontline services if she became prime minister.

In Monday night's debate, Ms Truss won applause from the audience when she said: “I’m always some who keeps my promises. I might not be the slickest presenter in the business but I do what I say I’ll do.”

In a Telegraph interview on July 22, the Foreign Secretary defended her fiscal plans and said she was the 'insurgent candidate' in the leadership race.

You can read her Telegraph Op-Ed here.