Liz Truss is poised to become PM in weeks after another poll showed she has an unassailable lead among Tory members.
Rival Rishi Sunak only has support from 34 per cent, excluding those who are not sure. Although the 32-point advantage is slightly smaller than was found a fortnight ago, just 13 per cent are now undecided and nearly six in 10 have already voted.
However, there is also widespread regret that Boris Johnson is going – with 55 per cent saying it was wrong to force him to quit.
There is already sniping within the Tories over the bitter contest, with anger in the Sunak camp that some MPs have switched sides as Ms Truss’s bid has gathered momentum.
‘Those who switch are doing it purely for their own careers and it’s spineless. No one forgets a switcher and it tends to end badly for them,’ one insider told the Guardian.
Liz Truss is backed by 66 per cent of the activists who will decide the successor to Boris Johnson, according to research by YouGov
There is also widespread regret among Tory activists that Boris Johnson (pictured on holiday in Greece this week) is going – with 55 per cent saying it was wrong to force him to quit
Truss supporters today shrugged off a warning from the respected IFS think-tank that ‘permanent tax cuts’ could put even more strain on public spending.
High inflation and interest rates will push up public spending, including on benefits and pensions, the IFS predicts.
Combined with weak economic growth, this is likely to offset the effect of any expected increased tax intake.
The report warns: ‘A prudent prime minister and chancellor determined to deliver on the government’s existing fiscal targets and to manage the nation’s finances responsibly would be wise not to bank on higher revenues matching higher spending.’
A Sunak campaign spokesman said the analysis ‘drives a coach and horses through Liz’s economic plan’.
‘Rishi has consistently made the case that permanent, unfunded tax cuts would cause significant damage to the public finances and push inflation up higher,’ the spokesman said.
But Education Secretary James Cleverly, a Truss supporter, told Sky News: ‘Frankly what we have seen is the growth of the UK economy not be as vibrant as we would like.
‘That is what Liz is pursuing, it is a growth strategy, and if you don’t have a plan for growth you don’t have a plan for government.’
During the latest campaign hustings in Belfast, both candidates doubled down on their economic policies as Mr Sunak said the Foreign Secretary would be guilty of ‘moral failure’ if she does not focus on the nation’s poorest as he warned her policies could further stoke inflation.
Ms Truss instead insisted ‘taxes are too high and they are potentially choking off growth’.
Ms Truss is poised to take over in No10 within weeks as she leads Mr Sunak in the Tory contest
There is already sniping within the Tories over the bitter contest, with anger in the Sunak camp that some MPs have switched sides as Ms Truss’s bid has gathered momentum
A ConservativeHome poll of activists published yesterday gave Ms Truss a similarly commanding advantage
Team Truss played down the IFS analysis, with a campaign source stressing that Ms Truss ‘would use an emergency budget to kickstart her plan to get our economy growing and put more money into the pockets of hardworking people’.
‘Liz will cut taxes using the existing fiscal headroom and will get debt to GDP falling within three years. You cannot tax your way to growth, and business as usual will not do.’
It comes as Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for Brexit opportunities, suggested a cost-saving push in Whitehall could have gone further if it was not for Mr Sunak.
In the latest attack on the former chancellor by a senior Truss supporter and Johnson loyalist, Mr Rees-Mogg claimed a ‘tight control on spending and an emphasis on reducing fraud’ had saved £3.5 billion between 2020 and 2021.
Mr Rees-Mogg, who is also the minister charged with government efficiency, wrote in the Telegraph: ‘Earlier this year, the Efficiency and Value for Money Cabinet Committee was established with a mission to save the taxpayer over £5.5 billion each year.
‘This was sadly under-utilised by the former chancellor, but it must be a vital tool in the next prime minister’s arsenal for cutting waste and inflation.’
Ms Truss also received a further boost as the widow of former Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble backed her bid for No10.