Monday, August 8, 2022

Fact check of Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss claims against each other in Tory leadership race

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The last two candidates have refused to back down in their briefing war

Despite pleas from their Conservative peers for a clean fight, the two have refused to pull their punches as they fight to become the next prime minister.

The Tory leadership battle between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss has sparked a bitter briefing war between the two camps as they scramble to seize the keys to Downing Street.

The ferocity of the attacks accelerated as the pair sought to show who took the toughest stance on national security, prompting a volley of targeted briefings to undermine their opponent.

here I takes a look at some of the most brutal lines of attack and sees if they have any basis in reality.

The attacks were perpetrated by members of the Truss campaign, who had outraged Team Sunak’s criticism of her claims that she went to a school where children “failed and were let down by low expectations.”

Sunak camp claimed she was rewriting history and that the state school she attended, a former high school teacher in Roundhay, a suburb of Leeds, was very successful.

Fact check: Largely true. Mr Sunak went to Winchester College, where boarding fees are more than £45,000 a year – putting him in quite an elite group. He also worked for Goldman Sachs before entering politics, but he’s not “based” in LA, which is a thinly veiled comment about having a US green card until last year.

However, it is worth noting that Ms Truss enjoyed serving under a Prime Minister who attended Eton College and previously held US citizenship.

The Sunak camp has insisted that the foreign minister’s claim of being a “hawk” of China is a relatively recent stance. They have pointed to their role in the opening of nearly a third of the country’s Confucius Institutes, which help promote Mandarin in British schools and have become the focus of many Tories’ concerns.

The China Research Group of conservative backbenchers insists that the institutes, which also operate at universities, are merely Beijing’s propaganda arms and a malign influence on the British education system. Team Sunak also suggested showing Ms Truss as someone who is quick to change her position, highlighting her past as a “Liberal Democrat, Remainer and Cameroon”.

Fact check: TRUE. Well, the second part. Ms. Truss was responsible for signing contracts with local Chinese governments and universities to set up Confucius Institutes in the UK as part of her first government role as Junior Minister of Education between 2012 and 2014.

However, this came at a time of vastly different relations between Britain and China, as David Cameron and George Osborne looked to usher in a new “golden era” between the two countries. Since then, she has been one of Beijing’s most vocal critics in government and has taken an increasingly tough stance on the country.

A charge was laid at Ms. Truss’s door after her team penetrated Mr. Sunak’s immigration plans. The two candidates engaged in an arms race over who could take the tougher position on refugees and migrant crossings.

The Sunak campaign has controversially suggested that asylum seekers could be accommodated on cruise ships to avoid using expensive hotels. The plan was immediately picked up by the Truss camp, which warned it would result in the effective “detention” of refugees and could even violate human rights law and violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

Fact check: It is difficult to disagree with the claim. Team Truss has insisted that it will not be “intimidated” by the ECtHR and has even indicated that it would seek to overhaul the convention. Still, her campaign has raised fears that Mr Sunak’s plans may violate human rights laws.

The Conservative government has for years accused the Human Rights Act of frustrating its efforts to deport people, and has portrayed “left-wing” human rights lawyers as part of the problem. It is therefore surprising that Ms Truss should be concerned, at odds with the HRA to guess.

As part of the lengthy briefing battle on national security, the Truss camp made a series of claims that despite the country’s treatment of Uyghurs and its modus operandi, the former chancellor wanted to resume trade ties with China while guiding the Treasury toward democracy .

The campaign team also found an article in a Chinese newspaper Global Times which claimed to have backed Mr Sunak for PM and praised his “pragmatic approach” which allegedly contradicted the “very tough stance towards China” of the other leading candidates.

Fact check: TRUE. The Ministry of Finance has been trying to resume Economic and Financial Dialogue (EFD) and Joint Economic Trade and Cooperation (JETCO) summits with China for the past two years. That Global Times also wrote an article highlighting Mr Sunak as the least aggressive on relations with Beijing – but whether pragmatism can be described as “soft” on China must be left to Tory members.

In a bid to gain ground over his leadership rival, Mr Sunak attacked Ms Truss’ economic plans, which include £30bn in tax cuts paid for by borrowing more money.

Ms Truss believes the plans will boost the economy by putting more money in people’s pockets at a time when consumer spending is at an all-time low due to the cost of living crisis. She believes the debt should be treated like war debt and should be paid over a longer period of time.

Fact check: The ex-chancellor criticized the plans because they would now borrow tens of billions of pounds and leave the bill to future generations. Whether this is to be regarded as immoral we leave to the philosophers.

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