Sunak said he is not out of the Conservative leadership race after a video surfaced of him talking about purposely diverting cash away from impoverished metropolitan regions of the United Kingdom when he was Chancellor.
A bombshell YouGov poll released on Tuesday showed his rival Liz Truss with a huge 34-point lead among Tory members, but Sunak said in an interview with GB News published late Friday that he had spoken to thousands of party members in recent days and that the contest is closer than suggested by that result.
It’s been “very great” and “enjoying” the chats with our members, Sunak said, adding, “I believe the race is closer than it would look.”
Amidst significant outrage over Sunak’s statements about cutting government aid to poor metropolitan regions, the candidate’s campaign spent Friday on the back foot.
Tories campaigned on a platform of “levelling up” the country’s less wealthy regions, particularly northern England and the Midlands, arguing that richer places in the southeast had reaped the economic benefits for far too long. Royal Tunbridge Wells, southeast of London, was where Sunak was lecturing at the time.
His campaign’s efforts to portray Sunak as the more electable of the two candidates were further hampered by the response from across the political spectrum.
I’ve been able to start modifying the fund-allocation formulas so that locations like this receive the cash they deserve,” Sunak says in the film. This was shot on July 29, according to The New Statesman, which released it. As a legacy of the Labour Party, we were saddled with a number of financing formulae that disproportionately benefited poor metropolitan regions. I began the process of undoing what had been done.”
Conservatives have always held Tunbridge Wells, which is a wealthy constituency in southeast England, although it also has some disadvantaged sections.
Conservative minister Zac Goldsmith tweeted, “This is one of the oddest — and stupidest — things I’ve ever heard from a politician.”
The Labour Party said that Sunak’s comments were proof that the former chancellor was favouring wealthy portions of the nation at the cost of disadvantaged communities. Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow levelling up secretary, said: “This is public money.” In order to ensure that the money is divided equitably and spent where it’s most needed, “it should not be used as a bribe to Tory members,”
“Fix underinvestment in regional infrastructure” is a promise made by Truss in response to the gaffe, which he intends to profit on.
Sunak’s critics are accusing Tory MP Richard Holden of smearing Labour regimes for shifting money from small towns and cities to the metropolis and suburbs. With the levelling up plan, the Conservatives are hoping they can keep control of seats like his in northern England, which defected from Labour in 2019.