Jeremy Hunt has appealed to Conservative members not to forget their political identity as a pro-enterprise party ahead of the showpiece televised debate of the leadership contest.
Ahead of the only head-to-head clash with frontrunner Boris Johnson on ITV this evening, Mr Hunt claimed his programme of corporate tax cuts, infrastructure investment and education reforms would add £27 billion to the UK economy.
“I’m the man with the plan to turbocharge our economy,” Mr Hunt said.
“We can only afford to fund our vital public services if we grow the size of the pot and my plan will do exactly that.
“We have to remember that the Conservative Party should back the wealth creators and entrepreneurs who take risks to create jobs.”
But with 90 per cent of Tory members expected to have already cast their postal ballots, the foreign secretary faces a struggle to mount a serious challenge to Mr Johnson, who yesterday played to his strengths on Brexit.
The former London Mayor pledged to get the UK “match fit for no-deal” to ensure it can leave the European Union on 31 October “come what may”.
Mr Johnson said there would be “no second chances” as he stressed that Halloween was a real deadline, “not a fake one” – a comment aimed at Mr Hunt, who says he is willing to carry out a no-deal Brexit, but would ask the EU for a further delay if a deal is in sight.
Mr Johnson also signalled the UK would be prepared to tear up red tape and slash taxes after Brexit.
“We will be free to substantially diverge on tax and regulation,” he said. “I have had enough of being told that we cannot do it, that the sixth biggest economy in the world is not strong enough to run itself and go forward in the world.”
Yesterday Mr Hunt committed to creating a dedicated minister for fishing as part of a pledge to take the UK out of the EU Common Fisheries Policy by 2020.
Scottish Tory MP John Lamont said Mr Johnson’s plan to extend a post-Brexit transition period to 2021 “would be completely unacceptable for Scotland’s fishermen”.
Meanwhile, a poll has revealed a majority of Tory members back the death penalty and think Donald Trump would make a good prime minister.
Some 56 per cent of those surveyed thought Islam was “generally a threat” to the British way of life and just 22 per cent thought it was “generally compatible”.
YouGov questioned 892 Tory members from 11-14 June.