Education Secretary Mr Cleverly – a prominent backer of the Foreign Secretary – suggested future Tory election contests should be “wrapped up quicker”, while pointing out his preferred candidate was still doing her day job while building up a commanding lead. Former Chancellor Mr Sunak today insisted he still has a “shot at being Prime Minister” – but Mr Cleverly, speaking to LBC, appeared to believe it was all over bar the shouting.
He said: “I am a former party chairman. This is the system that is in place. I do think it is legitimate to look at reviewing that.
“That is an internal party process rather than a government process. But as I say, government does continue, ministers are still working.”
He added: “I would have been very, very happy if this whole process was over more quickly.
“But as I say, one of the people contending for this is a backbencher, not involved in government at all any more, Liz is the foreign secretary, and I know that she is still active on the foreign affairs side of things as well.
“But yes, of course we would like to see this wrapped up quicker but we are still working, nonetheless.”
Today’s YouGov poll of party members has 66 percent backing Ms Truss to 34 percent supporting Mr Sunak, when the undecided and non-voters were excluded.
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Mr Sunak claimed Labour’s proposal to freeze energy costs, partly to be paid for by a new windfall tax on oil and gas giants’ soaring profits, would be a “very blunt instrument”.
He argued it would provide “a lot of support for people who don’t need it”, but his warning that borrowing during high inflation would be “really risky” appeared to be an attack on Ms Truss.
He added: “If the Government embarks on a spree of just borrowing tens and tens and tens of billions of pounds, that means inflation could get worse.
“It’s like putting fuel on the fire and that’s the mistake we made in the 70s, I don’t want to repeat that mistake and I’d be really worried about plans that suggest that’s the right thing to do.”
Ms Truss has agreed to be interviewed by veteran political journalist Nick Robinson at 7pm on August 30 on BBC One, the BBC News Press Team tweeted on Thursday.
Mr Sunak sat down with Mr Robinson last week, but Ms Truss has until now resisted his invitation.
She has also declined to be interviewed by veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil on Channel 4, while Mr Sunak has already faced a grilling by him.
Mr Robinson, who is also a presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, tweeted yesterday: “I interviewed Rishi Sunak on BBC One a week ago for ‘Our next Prime Minister – the interviews.’
“As I said on the programme we also want to do an in depth interview Liz Truss. We are still hopeful she will find the time”.