Rishi Sunak has admitted he is “catching up” with Liz Truss as she seemingly claimed underdog status in the Tory leadership race.
The 42-year-old alluded to the fallout from his wife’s tax status when he appeared to suggest some comments claimed he “wouldn’t even be in this contest” if she hadn’t announced her decision to pay taxes to him in the United Kingdom. overseas income while still chancellor in April.
While the foreign secretary continued to improve in the polls, Mr Sunak’s weekend was marked by his pledge to end “woke nonsense” and his supporters blaming his unpopularity on “racism latent,” a claim he quickly countered as incorrect.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Sunak also revealed that his plan to reform the NHS would include a temporary £10 fine for patients who fail to attend a GP or outpatient appointment.
“If we have people who don’t show up and take those places away from people who need them, it’s not right,” he told the newspaper. “I’m all for a healthcare system that’s free at the point of use, but not one that’s free at the point of misuse.”
He added: “Yes, it means we have to do something brave and different, but that’s what I’m doing. I want to be a transformative prime minister.”
When such proposals have come up in the past, doctors have warned that a system of fines could create a new layer of bureaucracy that GP surgeries would struggle to cope with.
Meanwhile, Ms Truss played down claims she has a clear lead over Sunak, although her campaign was further boosted by endorsements from party heavyweight Tom Tugendhat, insisting it was a “very, very close race”. , while announcing his “support from the right”. to all parts of the Conservative Party”.
Earlier on Saturday, in another attempt to revive his first government, the former chancellor pledged to reduce the number of empty shops on Britain’s high streets and crack down on graffiti and littering.
Sunak also pledged to expand police powers to tackle anti-social behavior in public spaces.
Under his plan to rejuvenate high streets, many of which are blighted by shuttered shops and derelict buildings, Sunak would remove obstacles to those properties being quickly converted into new businesses or cafes.
It would allow local authorities to double fines for littering and graffiti and consider lowering the threshold for offenders to be jailed.
Sunak would strengthen orders allowing police to disperse people behaving in anti-social ways and extend the powers to apply to types of behavior rather than just one location.
It would also seek to reduce regulations around farmers’ markets, make local authorities assess social value when considering the location of public services and protect access to ATMs.
Sunak said: “I want to reduce the number of empty shops by 2025 and make sure they become thriving local assets, supporting skills, local businesses, economies and creating jobs.
“They will be joined by vital public services, such as police stations and job centres.
“I will also be supporting covered markets and farmers markets, making it as easy as possible for them to trade on our high streets and sell their fantastic produce to local people.
“We should all be proud of our high streets, so I will also crack down on anti-social behaviour, graffiti and littering, by expanding police powers and increasing fines.
“I have been clear that I have a plan to rebuild our economy; our high streets are a crucial part of this.”
Sunak and his rival in the race for No.10 have faced calls from a group of the UK’s biggest retailers to cut business rates.
The Retail Jobs Alliance, which includes Tesco, Greggs and Sainsbury’s, last week accused the candidates of failing to prioritize the high street as businesses are being hit by the so-called shop tax amid rising inflation.
CBI chief executive Tony Danker has also called for urgent reform of the business rates system.
As chancellor, Sunak offered relief from business rates during the pandemic and oversaw a review of property tax, but no sweeping reforms followed through.
Ms Truss has indicated she would review trade tariffs if she becomes Prime Minister.
A BMG Research poll of party loyalists in the newspaper and was the latest to put Ms Truss ahead of Mr Sunak by double digits, a poll of Tory councilors saw the two contenders almost neck and neck.
Ms Truss was on 31% and Sunak on 28% among 511 local Tory politicians polled by Savanta ComRes.