Liz Truss has had a tricky 24 hours, having performed a massive U-turn over public sector pay cuts within hours of trumpeting her new “war on Whitehall waste” policy, which included adopting regional pay boards and savings across the public sector of £8.8bn.
But by yesterday afternoon, Truss’s team had backed away from the plan, claiming it had never been the intention to propose cuts for public workers on that scale.
The Theresa May “Nothing has changed” meme is everywhere you look on social media and Rishi Sunak’s team has tried to make hay of the mishap.
Brandon Lewis, the former Northern Ireland secretary, who is backing Truss, tried to address the issue on BBC Radio 4 this morning, saying that delivering pay cuts for “all public sector workers” was “never the proposition” – despite the original press release saying exactly that.
Truss’s about-turn, and her campaign team’s immediate attack on others for “misrepresenting” her policy, has invited unflattering comparisons with Boris Johnson’s chaotic leadership of No 10. But the reality is that the Foreign Secretary is still running away with the race – a new YouGov poll of Tory members puts her an indomitable 34 points ahead – and it would seem that the ex-chancellor needs a miracle to turn it around.
The two leadership contenders will turn their focus on Wales today as they head to Cardiff for the next hustings tonight. As well as questions about the Labour-led Senedd, the pair may be grilled over an intervention from LGBT+ Tories who fear rights for minorities are being weaponised as part of the candidates’ attack on “woke” issues.
Meanwhile, confusion reigns in Labour thanks to Keir Starmer’s stance on whether frontbenchers are or are not allowed to visit picket lines. The party was forced to clarify that Lisa Nandy would not face action over images of her with striking CWU workers earlier this week. The shadow levelling-up secretary is thought to have escaped penalty after giving the leader’s office advance notice.
But the Guardian has reported that Starmer is on holiday until 15 August, and the overall policy for frontbenchers will not be set in stone until then. With strikes planned throughout the summer, Labour urgently needs to clear up the uncertainty as MPs and activists remain angry.
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