Tory leadership race latest: Penny Mordaunt not ready to govern 'on day one', suggests Liz Truss ally

Penny Mordaunt - JONATHAN HORDLE/ITV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
Penny Mordaunt - JONATHAN HORDLE/ITV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Penny Mordaunt would not be ready to govern "on day one", an ally of her Conservative leadership rival Liz Truss has suggested.

The two contenders face a battle royale this afternoon as they seek to secure a spot on the Tory membership ballot against Rishi Sunak this summer.

Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was asked by Sky News why he shared out criticisms of Ms Mordaunt by Lord Frost, who said a Mordaunt premiership would not succeed.

"I think it’s very important that people get to hear about the assessment of the qualities of people who are standing," Mr Clarke told Sky. "Lord Frost’s warning is not in isolation, it’s been echoed by a number of people.

"I think it’s perfectly important that people who have, as I say, worked closely with candidates get to make clear their views. And people’s readiness for that job on day one is critical. That is of course one of the reasons why I’m supporting the Foreign Secretary."

It came as Tobias Ellwood, who was stripped of the Tory whip yesterday, warned that the public had "had enough of blue-on-blue" fighting after a bitter week of the leadership race.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

09:41 AM

Penny Mordaunt: We must recognise 'very volatile' state of affairs

Penny Mordaunt pledged an economic policy to "recognise the very volatile period we're going into" as she reaffirmed the need to balance the books.

"There's lots  of things that the government doesn't need to do that it's currently doing, but we're not going to be  able to make some of the cuts that other candidates earlier in this contest put forward," she told the Spectator hustings last night.

"What we do  need to do is to grow the economy, and we need to help people who are really in dire straits. So  that's why I've got these targeted measures to really support them."

Ms Mordaunt said she would keep the net zero target but make it "work for consumers", while suggesting it was not a "foregone conclusion" green policies would push up taxes.

09:37 AM

Sunak invokes Thatcher on tax and makes the case for net zero

Rishi Sunak has argued Margaret Thatcher would have followed his policy of gripping inflation before starting to introduce tax cuts further down the line.

He told the Spectator hustings: "She got that inflation was something that you needed to get out of the system, and that will be my priority if elected Prime Minister. But I'll also make sure that we drive growth in our economy and do that by reforming the taxes on investment and innovation, because that's how you get growth and  productivity."

Mr Sunak maintained he had not changed his mind on the need for a smaller Government since his backbench days, urging it to be "strong, but... nimble and as dynamic as possible."

On net zero he pledged to retain the current 2050 net zero target and defended green levies as they "actually go and pay for specific things".

09:27 AM

Liz Truss: My tax cuts can be paid for

Liz Truss insisted her promises of immediate tax cuts are "affordable" as she warned against attempts to "choke off" the economy.

Speaking at last night's Spectator hustings, Ms Truss said her pledge to cut National Insurance, reverse the planned corporation tax rise and have a temporary moratorium on the green levy "can be paid for within the existing fiscal envelope".

"The taxes that I'm cutting cost £30 billion. That is affordable. And what I'm saying is that if we raise  taxes now, that will lead to lower revenues, which will make it harder to balance the books in future.  You don't get growth by increasing tax."

Ms Truss also said it was time to "look again" at the mandate of the Bank of England, while committing to achieving net zero in a "more market-friendly way".

09:14 AM

Tugendhat supporter switches to Mordaunt

Damian Green, the former deputy prime minister, has backed Penny Mordaunt for the Conservative leadership having initially thrown his weight behind Tom Tugendhat, who was eliminated on Monday.

"I have thought long and hard about what to do in today’s leadership ballot and I will be voting for Penny Mordaunt," Mr Green said. "She offers a fresh start and a chance to unify the party."

The promise of a "clean start" to move on from the Boris Johnson years had been a key pledge of Mr Tugendhat's campaign.

09:11 AM

Rishi Sunak pledges not to build more onshore wind farms

Rishi Sunak has pledged to keep the ban on building any new onshore wind farms if he wins the Tory leadership race and becomes the next prime minister, writes Nick Gutteridge.

The former chancellor would reverse Boris Johnson’s plan to relax the rules and let local communities agree to host turbines in return for cheaper electricity bills.

Speaking to The Telegraph, he vowed to introduce a legal target to make Britain energy self-sufficient by 2045 by overseeing a massive expansion in offshore wind.

David Cameron introduced the de facto ban on new onshore wind farms in 2016 by excluding them from government subsidies for green electricity.

Full report: Sunak sets out plan for energy independence

09:00 AM

'The Tories will regret rejecting Kemi Badenoch'

In the adrenaline stakes, the Tory leadership race was never going to be a summer blockbuster to rival Top Gun: Maverick, but today it feels even less exciting, writes Madeine Grant.

Both Kemi Badenoch – knocked out yesterday – and Tom Tugendhat, eliminated on Monday, were, in different ways, the only candidates offering a genuine break from the past. Public reaction to the TV debates suggested that they, more than any of their rivals, had managed to excite and connect with voters.

Now the contest looks drab. Imagine a box of Celebrations on Boxing Day, or the state of the supermarket sandwich aisle just before closing time. The succulent salmon and cream cheese bagels are long gone, so too the solid, dependable BLTs.

Instead, an uninspiring selection awaits – all weeping lettuce and congealed crusts. Fancy a coagulated tuna sweetcorn or a soggy egg and cress? A greying chicken salad? Thought not.

Madeline Grant: Are the Tories even serious about winning?

08:48 AM

Sadiq Khan 'angry' with Tory candidates over net zero

Sadiq Khan condemned the Conservative leadership candidates for ignoring what he described as "the elephant in the room" during the heatwave.

Climate change and net zero were discussed during Sunday night's second televised debate, with all of the candidates committing to net zero but diverging on how to get there and whether to have a target date.

Mr Khan told Sky News he needed "support from the Government because we can't do it alone" to deal with the "consequences and causes" of climate change in London.

"One of the things that really makes me angry is that, what we've seen in the last few days, this extreme weather, this heatwave, at the same time there's a leadership contest to choose the next prime minister," he told Sky. "And no-one's talking about the elephant in the room, which is climate change causing the heatwave where temperatures are exceeding 40C."

08:43 AM

'This isn't The Apprentice': Why Tory members must choose carefully

Boris Johnson is a consummate campaigner and Tory MPs evidently took the view that he had lost his election-winning mojo, writes Philip Johnston. But they have only made the right decision, electorally at least, if his successor can win at the polls.

Since Harold Wilson stepped down in 1976, there have been five mid-term changes of prime minister. In every instance, the new occupant of No 10 has been chancellor, foreign secretary or home secretary or, in James Callaghan’s case, all three.

The two candidates in the current race who qualify on these terms are Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. The idea someone who has never held government office or only been in a junior role should aspire to the premiership says something about the times in which we live.

Philip Johnston: Why we cannot gamble on a greenhorn

08:39 AM

Have your say: Who should be the next Tory leader?

And then let us know why in the comments section of this live blog.

08:38 AM

Your key timings for today

  • 11.30am Action starts in the House of Commons with Cop26 questions - will Alok Sharma have any more to say on the net zero debate in the leadership race?

  • 12pm Boris Johnson faces Sir Keir Starmer for the final time at Prime Minister's Questions. Expect a raucous atmosphere and the PM to double down on his record.

  • 1pm-3pm The fifth and final round of the Tory MPs' ballot takes place.

  • 4pm Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers, confirms which two candidates will face the membership this summer.

08:29 AM

Simon Clarke - who worked with Sunak for nine months - says Truss's ideas 'most exciting'

Liz Truss has "the most exciting plan" for the British economy, Rishi Sunak's former second-in-command has said.

Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, praised Ms Truss's "compelling" focus on tax cuts and increasing revenues.

Pressed by LBC on why he was backing the Foreign Secretary, and not Mr Sunak, he said: "Liz is clear that she will scrap the National Insurance increase that came into effect earlier this year, and she'll reverse the planned corporation tax rise for early next year."

08:25 AM

Let us vote to keep Boris Johnson as PM, demand Tory members

More than 2,000 Conservative members have written to the party’s chairman to demand a vote on whether Boris Johnson should carry on as leader, reports Christopher Hope.

The party members want Mr Johnson's name to be added to the ballot when 160,000 members vote for a new leader next month.

The members - all of whom have to give their membership numbers when they sign up - are backing a petition organised by Lord Cruddas of Shoreditch, the Tory donor, and David Campbell Bannerman, a former Conservative Euro MP.

The petition is the first stage of a campaign by members to reinstate Mr Johnson, with further plans to pressure association chairmen to take action over his removal from the leadership.

Full story: 'You cannot disenfranchise members'

08:22 AM

Penny Mordaunt launches overnight policy blitz

Penny Mordaunt has launched an overnight policy blitz in a last-ditch attempt to secure a spot in the final two of the Conservative leadership race.

Ms Mordaunt has pledged overnight interest-free loans for deposits - forcing banks to consider rent payments so Britons with poor credit scores can afford deposits - and vowed to cut EU red tape to make Britain the "easiest, simplest" country to trade with.

Penny Mordaunt has set out her stall on issues including red tape and China - Hollie Adams/Getty Images
Penny Mordaunt has set out her stall on issues including red tape and China - Hollie Adams/Getty Images

She also accused the Government of being "too soft on China", an issue that was a flashpoint between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, her remaining leadership rivals, during the second debate on Sunday.

08:18 AM

Tory MPs only vote for the best candidate, insists minister

Simon Clarke was keen to deny any knowledge of "horse-trading" or vote-swapping deals rumoured to have taken place behind closed doors.

Mr Clarke insisted the Liz Truss campaign "has been focused purely and simply on making that case to our colleagues" and professed to have "no insight into anything of that kind".

"Colleagues ultimately vote for the person they think is best placed to be the next party leader, that’s the only possible right thing to do and the only logical thing to do," he told Sky.

"It’s not for me to comment on what any other campaign might be doing."

08:16 AM

Tobias Ellwood calls for campaign ceasefire amid 'blue-on-blue' spats

Tobias Ellwood, who confirmed he will be unable to vote for Penny Mordaunt today after he was stripped of the Tory whip, warned the rival leadership camps Britain "has probably had enough of the blue-on-blue".

Speaking from Odesa in Ukraine, the defence committee chairman described the past few weeks as "a sad chapter in the history of our great party" and said he hoped his suspension from the Conservative ranks was "only temporary".

Tobias Ellwood - Yui Mok/PA Wire
Tobias Ellwood - Yui Mok/PA Wire

"The nation wants to be impressed and inspired, not demoralised by what they're witnessing right now and we perhaps need to exhibit greater decorum, dial down the temperature a bit. Otherwise we're just going to be letting ourselves and committing ourselves to probably a long spell in opposition."

08:12 AM

Things are off to a stormy start

Asked why he shared out Lord Frost's cutting critique of Penny Mordaunt, Simon Clarke - who is backing Liz Truss - insisted the next Prime Minister must be ready "on day one".

I think it’s very important that people get to hear about the assessment of the qualities of people who are standing not just to be the leader of the Conservative Party but our next Prime Minister.

And Lord Frost’s warning is not in isolation, it’s been echoed by a number of people. I think it’s perfectly important that people who have, as I say, worked closely with candidates get to make clear their views.

This is a robust contest – you would expect it to be, frankly, because this is an incredibly important job. And people’s readiness for that job on day one is critical. That is of course one of the reasons why I’m supporting the Foreign Secretary.

08:10 AM

Good morning

Dominic Penna here, the Telegraph's political reporter guiding you through another significant day in Westminster as the final two Tory leadership contenders are confirmed.

Rishi Sunak is widely expected to advance to the members' ballot, but questions remain about whether will be joined by Liz Truss or Penny Mordaunt.

Penny Morduant Liz Truss Rishi Sunak - Getty Images
Penny Morduant Liz Truss Rishi Sunak - Getty Images

Today will also see Boris Johnson's last ever Prime Minister's Questions.