Candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss take part in the BBC Conservative party leadership debate at Victoria Hall in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Britain, July 25, 2022. Jacob King/Pool via REUTERS

In the race to succeed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, ex-Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss exchanged blows on issues such as taxes in their first TV debate. Before the one-hour duel late Monday evening in Stoke-on-Trent, Truss was the favorite according to several polls.

She is in favor of immediate tax cuts, while Sunak initially wants to wait for inflation to drop, which is also comparatively high in Great Britain. Truss announced that he would take action against Chinese technology groups like TikTok if he won.

However, the two opponents agreed that incumbent Boris Johnson would not be given a new government post. Secretary of State Truss said the outgoing prime minister needed a “well-deserved break.” “He will not be part of the government.” At the same time, she criticized the party’s decision to force Johnson to withdraw. “He made mistakes, but I don’t think the mistakes were enough for the Conservative Party to reject him,” she said.

Ex-Treasury Secretary Sunak said Johnson would not be part of a government he led. “The answer is simple: no.” The party must look ahead.

The two candidates had received enough votes in the last vote of the Conservative MPs to move into the final round. Originally, eleven candidates had applied to succeed Johnson. Now the 200,000 members of the party are to decide by postal vote between Sunak and Truss as the future chairman.

The result will be announced on September 5th. The leader of the party automatically heads the government as the Tories are the largest party in the House of Commons. Before the debate, British media pointed out that Tory party members only inaccurately represent the entire population. The BBC quoted a study by Queen Mary University London as saying that more than half were older than 50 years.

Former Goldman Sachs banker Sunak has long been considered the favorite to succeed Johnson. He earned merits in the corona pandemic with a rescue program for the economy. However, given the skyrocketing cost of living, many Britons felt his ministry’s support was too low and the taxes too high. Like Johnson, Sunak was fined for breaching lockdown requirements.

Truss is considered the darling of the conservative party base, which decides on the successor. In Johnson’s government, she was foreign trade secretary for two years before the staunch Brexit supporter was appointed foreign secretary. Since last year she has also represented British positions as chief negotiator in Brussels at the EU.