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Rishi Sunak vs Liz Truss: What happens next in Tory leadership race contest?

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Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss will battle it out over the next six weeks to be the UK’s next prime minister after making it to the final stage of the Conservative Party leadership contest.

The former chancellor and the foreign secretary finished in the top two places after five rounds of voting by Tory MPs, with Penny Mordaunt eliminated after a bitterly fought contest.

So what happens next? The final two now switch their focus away from Westminster and begin charming Tory members, who have the final say on who replaces Boris Johnson at No 10 in early September.

Their first chance to make their pitch to Tory members – and the wider public – came on Monday 25 July, when they sparred during a heated primetime BBC debate moderated by Sophie Raworth.

The duo clashed over their competing tax plans, with Mr Sunak saying Ms Truss risked inflicting “economic misery” through her lavish short-term borrowing pledges “on the country’s credit card”, and were also at odds over their records on Brexit, Russia and China, the contest occasionally taking a personal turn that threatened to become toxic.

The two contenders will now face each other at 12 Tory hustings debates around the country, viewable on the party website, starting on 28 July in Leeds and finishing on 31 August in London.

Both candidates have also agreed to feature in a Sky News debate on 4 August, with the possibility of more TV hustings events in the weeks ahead.

Although the whole process does not come to an end until early September, many of the estimated 160,000 Tory members who get to decide on the next PM could make their minds up much sooner.

Ballot papers will begin landing on Tory members’ doorsteps as soon as 1 August, with the party telling paid-up supporters to expect them between 1 and 5 August.

And members who wish to vote online will receive an email on 2 August containing two unique security codes allowing them to cast their ballot digitally.

Intriguingly, members will be able to change their mind during the contest. They can send both a physical ballot and an online ballot, with the most recent one being counted.

Tory members then have until 5pm on 2 September to send their ballot to the party, with the final result announced on 5 September.

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss square off in their first head-to-head TV debate

(Reuters)

Boris Johnson would be expected to head to Buckingham Palace for formalities with the Queen on 6 September, before either Mr Sunak or Ms Truss takes over that same day. Both have ruled out an early general election.

The battle is set to expose a clear rift between Ms Truss’s right-wing agenda of immediate tax cuts and confrontation with the EU, and Mr Sunak’s more cautious approach, avoiding “fairytale” tax giveaways.

The ex-chancellor, the frontrunner throughout the parliamentary leg of the contest, received 137 votes in the final round of voting. Ms Truss won 113 votes, narrowly pushing Ms Mordaunt into third place on 105.

Bookmakers have made Ms Truss the favourite to win the contest in the country, after polling of Tory members pointed to her being favoured over Mr Sunak.

The most recent ConservativeHome online survey of the Tory grassroots also suggested that Ms Truss would beat Mr Sunak in a head-to-contest decided by members.

However, Mr Sunak set out his pitch to members in a brief video clip after last Wednesday’s results. He claimed that he is “the only candidate” who can beat Sir Keir Starmer at the next general election.

Team Sunak has pointed to polling that suggests he is more popular with the wider public and has the best chance of beating a resurgent Labour Party.

All Tory hustings events:

28 July: Leeds

1 August: Exeter

3 August: Cardiff

5 August: Eastbourne

9 August: Darlington

11 August: Cheltenham

16 August: Perth

17 August: Northern Ireland

19 August: Manchester

23 August: Birmingham

25 August: Norwich

31 August: London

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