Tax and transgender issues dominate as Penny Mordaunt is attacked in first Tory leadership TV debate


Penny Mordaunt was attacked by rivals in the Tory leadership over her tax and spending plans and record on transgender issues as the remaining contenders faced off in the first televised debate.

Britain’s Foreign Trade Secretary has been accused by ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak of promising billions in tax cuts that would only fuel inflation.

Leadership rivals Liz Truss and Kemi Badenoch said she pursued policies of gender self-identification when she was in charge of equality issues – something she staunchly denied.

Speaking to a Channel 4 studio audience, Ms Mordaunt said the attacks showed she was the candidate to beat after finishing an unexpectedly strong second place in the first two rounds of MPs voting.

“I take it as a big fat compliment that nobody wants to compete against me,” she said.

Ms Truss, the Foreign Secretary who is trying to overtake Ms Mordaunt to secure a place in the party members’ final vote, insisted she was campaigning “completely positive”.

Nonetheless, she joined Ms Badenoch to question Ms Mordaunt’s account of her gender self-identification notes in the evening’s first focal point.

She said while she held a consultation on the Gender Recognition Act, she had never been in favor of self-identification.

“I can’t imagine why people don’t understand what I’m saying and have been regurgitating this topic for weeks and weeks,” she said.

“I’m a woman, I’m a biological woman in every cell of my body,” she said, adding that a male who had legally switched was “not the same as me.”

Ms Badenoch, who took over as equality secretary in 2020, said she found it “difficult” to accept her report as the policy being pushed at the time was self-identification.

“So, I don’t see how that would have changed if it hadn’t been for someone else in between,” she said.

“I didn’t work with Penny but I felt that the previous minister who took on that role wanted a self-identification and that was something I reversed with Liz.”

Ms Mordaunt replied: “That is not correct and this is all recorded in the government.”

Ms Badenoch replied: “It is on record.” She was supported
from Ms Truss, who is responsible for equality in addition to foreign policy, who also said there was a plan to move forward with self-identification,

“I modified the outcome of this work so that we could make the process easier and friendlier, but didn’t move forward with self-identification, which I think is the right position,” she said.

Ms Mordaunt then came under fire from Rishi Sunak after she said her economic platform was not based on “taxes and spending” but on “growth and competition”.

The former Chancellor said campaign promises she made to cut VAT on fuel and raise income tax thresholds would cost £15bn.

“Even the pledges you’ve made are tens of billions of pounds pledges,” he told her.

“The best way to help everyone, the best way to make sure they have money in their pockets, is to get inflation under control and that should be everyone’s priority because that’s what the standard of living will be undermined for all.”

Ms Mordaunt replied: “Two things, Rishi, that you haven’t noticed – that is, I know you know people are going to need more help this autumn, but in fact people need help now and you need to do something about taxation.” .

“Next April we will be one of the least competitive nations in terms of our fiscal competitiveness. That must not happen.”

Mr Sunak, who led the first two polls, also attacked Ms Truss – who also promised tax cuts – after blaming the Bank of England for rising inflation.

“I don’t think it’s responsible right now to go into bad debt and more debt, it’s only going to worsen inflation, it’s going to make the problem longer,” he said.

“Borrowing a way out of inflation isn’t a plan, it’s a fairy tale.”

Ms Truss replied: “I think it’s wrong to raise taxes.”

Earlier, Tom Tugendhat tried to make a virtue of being the only candidate in the race with no ministerial experience.

“We need a break from the Johnson years. That’s why I’m here. We have to make sure we can trust our politicians,” he said.

He earned applause from the audience when – alone among the candidates – when asked if Boris Johnson was an “honest man”, he replied with a one-word answer of “no”. Tax and transgender issues dominate as Penny Mordaunt is attacked in first Tory leadership TV debate

Fry Electronics Team

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