Tory leadership race: Rishi Sunak is late to realise China threat, claims Liz Truss ally

Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor and Tory leadership contender - Danny Lawson/PA
Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor and Tory leadership contender - Danny Lawson/PA

An ally of Liz Truss has accused Rishi Sunak of being late to realise the threat posed by China as the two Tory leadership candidates clash over how they would deal with Beijing if they become prime minister.

James Cleverly, the Education Secretary who is backing Ms Truss, said the Foreign Secretary has been raising concerns about China "for a long time" and he is "very glad that Rishi’s now talking about the issues that Liz has been talking about".

Mr Sunak has said China and the Chinese Communist Party are the “biggest long-term threat” to the UK. The former chancellor 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 PM.

Mr Cleverly suggested that Mr Sunak's team are late-comers to the issue, telling Times Radio: "We do of course, and I would say we have, already been looking at the influence that China has in our education system.

“This is not new. It might be new to the people on Rishi’s campaign team but it is not new to anyone that has worked in education or the Foreign Office.”

​​Follow the latest updates below.

09:31 AM

Nadine Dorries criticises Rishi Sunak

Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, has appeared to mock Rishi Sunak over his expensive taste in clothing.

Ms Dorries, a supporter of Mr Sunak’s leadership rival Liz Truss, pointed to reports that the millionaire former chancellor has been pictured wearing a £3,500 suit and £490 Prada shoes.

She said Ms Truss, the Foreign Secretary, is more likely to be seen in a pair of £4.50 earrings from high street chain Claire’s. It is the latest sign of the bitter, highly personal nature of the Tory leadership battle.

She tweeted: ".@trussliz will be travelling the country wearing her earrings which cost circa £4.50 from Claire Accessories. Meanwhile… Rishi visits Teeside in Prada shoes worth £450 and sported £3,500 bespoke suit as he prepared for crunch leadership vote."

Guildford MP Angela Richardson, a supporter of Mr Sunak, shot back: “FFS Nadine! Muted.”

09:22 AM

Liz Truss tax pledges do not 'stack up'

Tax cut promises made by Liz Truss do not "stack up", Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has suggested.

Ms Truss has promised to slash taxes if she becomes prime minister but Ms Reeves said this morning that "I don't see how those numbers stack up".

Ms Reeves also suggested that tax promises made by Ms Truss and her rival Rishi Sunak could be watered down once one of them is in No 10. She said their actions "might be a little bit different to what they promise during a leadership contest".

She told Sky News: "If you promise big tax cuts you have got to be honest and say where money is going to come from. It either has to come from further cuts to public spending... or the money has to come from higher borrowing which will put further pressure on inflation and interest rates.

"I don't think that either candidate are being responsible in saying how they are going to fund the things that they are promising."

09:14 AM

Labour: Tories are 'ripping shreds out of each other'

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, has claimed neither Liz Truss nor Rishi Sunak have "answers to the big challenges we face as a country".

She told Sky News: "The Conservatives are obviously ripping shreds out of each other at the moment but my big worry about the Conservative Party leadership contest is that it is so small compared to the challenges we face as a country.

"Whether those are the day-to-day challenges of being able to get a passport and then to actually get out of the country if you are successful in getting one, the challenges of getting a hospital appointment or a doctors appointment, or indeed the cost-of-living crisis which is people's number one concern right now, especially ahead of the October increase in energy prices.

"It just feels to me that neither of the two remaining contenders for the Conservative leadership really have answers to the big challenges we face as a country."

09:04 AM

Sir Keir Starmer to hit out at 'Thatcherite cosplay'

Sir Keir Starmer will deliver a speech in Liverpool this morning in which he will hit out at the “Thatcherite cosplay” of the Tory leadership contest.

He will also vow to dump Labour’s historic obsession with high taxes and public spending.

The Labour leader is set to criticise the “magic money tree economics” of Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak and will pledge to pursue a relentless focus on growth if he wins the next election.

We are expecting Sir Keir to deliver his speech mid-morning. You can read the overnight story on what he is expected to say here.

08:59 AM

Tory leadership contest still 'all to play for'

It is still "all to play for" in the race to be the next Tory leader, according to Jeremy Hunt who is a supporter of Rishi Sunak.

Mr Sunak has described himself as the "underdog" in the contest as he battles it out with Liz Truss for the right to replace Boris Johnson.

Mr Hunt said he believes many Tory members are "still making up their minds" on who to vote for in the contest.

Jeremy Hunt, the former Cabinet minister, is pictured in London on July 10  - Peter Nicholls/Reuters
Jeremy Hunt, the former Cabinet minister, is pictured in London on July 10 - Peter Nicholls/Reuters

He told Sky News: "Well, I think it is all to play for. At this stage in the previous leadership campaign I was a long way behind Boris Johnson but I think the difference between this time and last time is that then because of Brexit a lot of Conservative Party members had firmly made up their minds.

"This time the polls show that a lot of people are still making up their minds, they haven't made their final decision."

08:51 AM

'The truth is we have to be radical'

Jeremy Hunt, a supporter of Rishi Sunak, has defended the former chancellor's suggested policy of housing illegal immigrants off-shore on old cruise ships (you can read more about the policy here).

Mr Hunt, who exited the Tory leadership race in an early round of the contest, said Mr Sunak is showing "courage" on the issue.

He told Sky News: "The truth is we have to be radical, we have to do things differently and we have to be courageous and Rishi Sunak to me has shown that he is willing to be courageous, in particular being up front to Conservative Party members of whom I am one who all to a person want tax cuts and say that is not possible at the moment, we can't afford that right now.

"I think that is the kind of courage that has persuaded me that he is the right man to be prime minister but the same courage and decisiveness is necessary, yes, when it comes to asylum policy, refugee policy as well."

08:42 AM

Jeremy Hunt claims Rishi Sunak ahead of Liz Truss on NHS

Jeremy Hunt, the chairman of the Health Select Committee and a former Tory leadership candidate, is backing Rishi Sunak in the race for No 10.

He was asked this morning if he believes Mr Sunak understands the pressures currently facing the NHS. The former health secretary suggested that Mr Sunak is ahead of his rival Liz Truss on the issue.

He told Sky News: "I think, I do give him credit that of the two candidates he is the first that has actually spoken about the NHS and he has used the word emergency and I think that is very important because that is what it feels like on the frontline at the moment. That is what it feels like I think for some of the people who are waiting for their NHS care.

"But the reason I am supporting him, it is because the reason I am a Conservative is because I think only Conservative governments take the tough and difficult decisions that the country needs and he was prepared to say publicly that we can't afford unfunded tax cuts and I thought that was very brave and I want someone who leads us, who tells us things that we don't always want to hear."

08:33 AM

James Cleverly hoping to stay as Education Secretary if Truss wins

Education Secretary James Cleverly said he would like to remain in the post in a Liz Truss government.

Asked if he would like to continue if Ms Truss wins the leadership election, Mr Cleverly told Times Radio: “The education department is an incredibly important department… I would love to remain as Education Secretary.

James Cleverly, the Education Secretary - Anadolu Agency
James Cleverly, the Education Secretary - Anadolu Agency

“Hopefully if I can do a good and strong job over the summer Liz will look kindly upon that as an idea for future.

“But ultimately, for me, there is plenty of work to be getting on this summer. That’s what I will be focusing on.”

08:30 AM

Liz Truss ally warns against Rishi Sunak's migrant cruise ships plan

Rishi Sunak's campaign has suggested illegal immigrants could be housed off-shore in old cruise ships, but Liz Truss's team has said the use of the vessels would likely be illegal because it could amount to “arbitrary detention”.

James Cleverly, the Education Secretary and a supporter of Ms Truss, said he believed the cruise ships could cause reputational damage to the towns or cities close to where they may be anchored.

Asked about the proposal, Mr Cleverly told Times Radio: “It is understandable that he [Mr Sunak] needs to put across a strong position on migration issues. I get that.

“I haven’t seen the practicalities of that. I do think that it would be interesting to see where those ships would be moored because typically the places where you can moor a cruise ship are holiday destinations and I am not completely sure that that would suit the tourist industry in our coastal towns which need I think a boost rather than what might be reputationally quite a negative thing.”

08:23 AM

'This is not new'

James Cleverly, the Education Secretary, said concerns about China's influence in the UK's education sector are "not new" as he responded to Rishi Sunak's pledge to close all Confucius Institutes (see the post below at 08.16).

Mr Cleverly told Times Radio: “I am in a position as Education Secretary where it would be unwise for me to make significant policy announcements in response to the positions that have been put out through leadership campaigns.

“We do of course, and I would say we have, already been looking at the influence that China has in our education system.

“This is not new. It might be new to the people on Rishi’s campaign team but it is not new to anyone that has worked in education or the Foreign Office.”

08:20 AM

Liz Truss ally criticises Rishi Sunak over China stance

James Cleverly, the Education Secretary, has accused Rishi Sunak of being late to realise the threat posed by China.

Mr Cleverly, who is supporting Liz Truss in the race for No 10, said the Foreign Secretary has been raising concerns about Beijing "for a long time" while Mr Sunak has only started speaking out on the issue "now".

Speaking to Times Radio, Mr Cleverly said: “Well, look, Liz, who I am supporting, has taken a firm line on China’s influence globally, whether it be through the belt and road initiative which has been I think putting undue pressure on a number of developing countries, she has talked about the network of liberty to make sure that like-minded open, free societies come together to provide a meaningful counterbalance to China’s influence.

“She has been talking about these for a long time so I am very glad that Rishi’s now talking about the issues that Liz has been talking about for quite some time and of course we do need to look at China’s influence, not just on the world stage but here in the UK.”

08:16 AM

Rishi Sunak accuses Liz Truss of ‘rolling out red carpet’ for China

Rishi Sunak has accused Liz Truss of helping to enable Beijing’s infiltration of British universities, as a row broke out between the Tory leadership candidates over China.

Laying out his position on foreign policy, the former chancellor said China and the Chinese Communist Party were the “biggest long-term threat” to the UK.

Mr Sunak 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.

His team pointed out that nine of the 31 Confucius centres in Britain were established when Ms Truss was an education minister between 2012 and 2014.

You can read the full story here.

08:14 AM

Good morning

Good morning and welcome to today's politics live blog.

The Tory leadership contest steps up a gear today as Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss face each other this evening in a head-to-head debate hosted by the BBC.

Both candidates having indicated they wish to see a decline in personal attacks as they fight for the keys to No 10, but the briefing war between the two sides has become increasingly frenetic and negative in recent days.

It promises to be another busy week in Westminster and I will guide you through the key developments.