Why Liz Truss, not Rishi Sunak, should be the next Prime Minister – Murdo Fraser MSP

I don’t have a great track record when it comes to choosing Conservative Party Leaders. In the last contest in 2019, I was an early and enthusiastic supporter of fellow Perthshire Tory Rory Stewart.

Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss is the favourite to win (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss is the favourite to win (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

His campaign attracted plaudits supporters from the media and commentariat in inverse proportion to the number of votes from MPs, and he was eliminated at an early stage.

I then switched to Jeremy Hunt, in the final run-off between him and Boris Johnson, fearing that the latter would prove a liability to the party. Recent events may well have vindicated that opinion but my support proved to be no lucky white heather for Mr Hunt.

Having been away for the last couple of weeks, I was afforded the luxury of being able to watch events develop in the current leadership race from a certain distance, without feeling the pressure to declare support for any candidate, or as some might see it, deliver the kiss of death.

From the original field of runners, to me the two most interesting candidates were Tom Tugendhat and Kemi Badenoch: from opposite wings of the party, but both offering something fresh and interesting, and a clear break with the past.

Whilst both failed to make it to the final run-off, I am sure they will have a bright future and have done themselves both enormous credit in putting themselves forward.

What was striking was the diversity of the candidates on offer. In the final six, there was only one white male, Tugendhat, four were women, and three were from minority ethnic communities.

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Now we are down to the last two, our next Prime Minister and Conservative party leader will either be another woman (the third the Conservatives have provided), or our first of Southern Asian heritage.

It is a record of diversity that no other major political party in the United Kingdom can come close to matching, and is a stark riposte to those who claim, absurdly, that the modern Conservative party in the UK harbours any prejudice against individuals on the grounds of their race or sex.

But now that we are down to the last two candidates, it is time to make a choice. Both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are substantial individuals, who have used the leadership campaign so far to set out their visions for the future.

I have great regard for Rishi Sunak, not least because of his track record as Chancellor, and the support he provided to businesses, individuals, and communities throughout the Covid pandemic. The fact that he is personally wealthy should be of no consequence when it comes to deciding on the suitability to be our country’s leader.

But, to me, the candidate better placed to take on the role of Prime Minister in these difficult times is Liz Truss. Having had a stumbling start to the campaign, she has grown in my estimation and in that of many others, over the past few weeks. Earlier this week I joined with another eight Scottish Conservative MSPs in endorsing her for the top job.

There are three principal reasons why I made that choice. First, Liz Truss has a record of delivery.

In the various jobs that she has held in government, she has substantial achievements, including the signing of a wide range of trade deals whilst Foreign Secretary.

It was in that role that she was able to work with the US to remove the high tariffs imposed against Scotch malt whisky by the Trump regime, a victory that was celebrated by this vital Scottish industry sector.

Secondly, Liz has a genuine interest in Scotland, partly shaped by her formative years with her family in Paisley.

Her comments from the heart about Nicola Sturgeon being best ignored, at Monday night’s hustings in Exeter, seem to have caused an outbreak of collective hysteria in Nationalist circles. The Deputy First Minister John Swinney, himself no slouch at hurling abuse at political opponents – he previously described the current Prime Minister as “a clown” and “a buffoon” – clutched his pearls and denounced them as “obnoxious”.

But what Truss was saying was that she would have no truck with Sturgeon’s incessant and increasingly tiresome demands for another independence referendum.

In that, she was lining up with majority Scottish opinion, which wants neither independence nor a re-run of the 2014 vote anytime soon. It is this approach, coupled with a more active role for the UK Government in Scotland, that Conservative members want to see.

Finally, Liz has a clear vision for how to take the country forward, to help grow the economy post-Covid and tackle issues with the rising cost of living.

It is, I believe, a fair criticism of Rishi Sunak that having started in the campaign arguing against tax cuts in the short term, he has substantially shifted his position.

Liz Truss, in contrast, has been consistent in the approach that she has taken, arguing in these difficult times there needs to be some relief for hard-pressed households who are seeing high inflation and rising costs, and wonder how they can afford to pay bills.

It is no surprise that given the qualities on display, more and more of my Conservative colleagues, both at Westminster and Holyrood, are coming out to support Liz Truss’s candidacy.

As ballot papers start to arrive on the doorsteps of party members across the country, I hope they will agree with me that she is the right choice to take the country forward. She has already demonstrated that she is a woman of principle and conviction, and that is what the country needs in these troubled times.

Despite my track record in choosing Conservative leaders in the past, the polling would suggest that this time I might have got it right. But it is now up to Conservative Party members to make the right choice for our future.

Murdo Fraser is a Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife

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