As of Friday, 15 July, after two rounds of voting, there are five leaders of the Conservative Party left in the race to become the next prime minister of the United Kingdom to replace Boris Johnson.
Two of them are: former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and incumbent Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
MPs Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries have come out in support of Truss in what is a major endorsement by two of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's closest allies in the Conservative Party. After all, commentators are calling her the "Johnson continuity" candidate.
Whether Sunak is able to fight off the Johnson camp will only become clear in the next few days. But what are his and Truss's stances on three of the most boiling issues in British politics at the moment – taxes, Russia, and the Northern Ireland protocol?
The biggest point of contention between Truss and Sunak with respect to the economy concerns taxes.
On one hand, the foreign secretary, in an article for The Telegraph, by way of which she launched her campaign, declared that she would "start cutting taxes from day one."
"Under my leadership, I would start cutting taxes from day one to take immediate action to help people deal with the cost of living," she wrote in the essay.
Sunak, on the other hand, has starkly warned against hasty tax cuts, and has even claimed that he is the best choice to defeat Labour Party's Keir Starmer in the 2024 elections.
"Of course, I want to cut taxes and I will deliver tax cuts. But we will do that in a measured way. And the only way to really do that sustainably over time is to ensure that the Conservatives win the next general election. And I’m convinced that I’m the best person to beat Keir Starmer," the Indian-origin former Chancellor of the Exchequer said in an interview with BBC Radio 4.
Economists have warned, as reported by The Independent, that the tax cuts proposed by Sunak's rivals, like Truss, are "nuts" and potentially inflationary. The foreign secretary, as a part of her tax plan, wants to reverse the April national insurance increase that was brought about by the former chancellor.
Both Sunak and Truss have been banned from Russia, and both of them have approached the Kremlin with great aggression.
Due to the invasion of Ukraine, he called on British firms to stop investing in Russia, and praised the decisions of energy companies like BP and Shell to pull out, along with the investment firms Aviva, M&G and Vanguard, for doing the same.
"I am urging firms to think very carefully about their investments in Russia and how they may aid the Putin regime – and I am also clear that there is no case for new investment in Russia. We must collectively go further in our mission to inflict maximum economic pain – and to stop further bloodshed," he said in March earlier this year.
This preaching did not stop him from landing in hot soup, given that his wife, Akshata Murthy, daughter of Infosys founded Narayana Murthy, has been accused of collecting "bloody money" in dividends from a company that has refused to exit Russia after the attack on Ukraine.
On the other hand, the foreign secretary's policy towards Russia has been described as being too hawkish. "We will keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine," Truss stated in April.
She has also been "supportive of the concept" regarding the government's seizure of frozen Russian assets in the United Kingdom and their redistribution to the victims of war in Ukraine.
Northern Ireland Protocol
Truss has argued that the protocol was undermining the Good Friday Agreement (a 1998 peace plan that ended the 30-year conflict in Ireland, popularly called "the Troubles."), had created practical issues and "a growing sense that the rights and aspirations of some parts of the community are being undermined."
She wants to scrap off part of the old deal with the European Union (even introducing a bill regarding the same) and make changes to it because "all other options within the current EU mandate are currently exhausted."
The foreign secretary is the only candidate so far who has mentioned the protocol in her leadership bid.
On the other hand, Sunak has been more cautious in his approach towards the protocol.
He told Bloomberg in May that the way it was operating at the moment was posing enormous challenges to "the stability of the situation" in Northern Ireland.
While he too wants to ensure that Northern Ireland's place in the United Kingdom is secure, he has expressed his concerns about the protocol in private.
At the end of 2021, for instance, the Daily Telegraph reported that Sunak urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his ex-chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost not to "blow up" talks with the European Union about the protocol at a time when tensions were high.