Ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak locked horns with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss last night as the pair met in Stoke-on-Trent for the first one-on-one debate of the Tory leadership election on BBC One. The pair fired plenty of shots at one another over tax, Brexit and even on their records in Government.
However, Mr Sunak faced criticism from a former aide to Margaret Thatcher over the way he handled the debate.
Nile Gardiner, who served as a foreign policy researcher for the Iron Lady between 2000 and 2002, took to social media to take aim at the ex-Chancellor.
Mr Gardiner said: “Watching tonight’s Conservative leadership debate, Rishi Sunak has some huge problems, which will contribute to his likely defeat.
“He does not come across instinctively as a conservative, his language is full of spin and not genuine, he is arrogant and really full of himself too.”
Despite facing criticism from Mr Gardiner, Mr Sunak has won the backing of allies to Mrs Thatcher, including the Iron Lady’s former Trade Secretary Peter Lilley.
An opinion poll conducted by Opinium Research suggested Mr Sunak narrowly won the contest by 39 percent to 38 percent.
However, Ms Truss opened up a nine-point lead among those who voted Conservative in 2019.
Allies of the Foreign Secretary have not shied away from taking aim at Mr Sunak.
A spokesman for Ms Truss said: “Rishi Sunak has tonight proven he is not fit for office.
Brexit also returned as a recurring issue.
Ms Truss, who converted to the Eurosceptic side of the Tory Party despite campaigning to Remain in the Brussels bloc in 2016, echoed Vote Leave’s rhetoric of “scaremongering” and “Project Fear”.
Mr Sunak then reminded his sparring partner he campaigned for the UK to leave the EU.
He said: “I remember the referendum campaign, and there was only one of us on the side of Remain and Project Fear and it was you, not me.”
Mr Sunak and Ms Truss will face off yet again today at 6pm for The Sun’s Showdown: The Fight for Number 10.