Truss, the favorite of British executives, abandons the compensation plan in the first big misstep

  • Tory truss slumps over key pledge
  • Opponents say the policy would have hit nurses and police officers
  • Poll shows Truss-Sunak race to be Britain’s next PM is close

LONDON, Aug 2 (Reuters) – British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, the favorite to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister, has been forced to backtrack on one of her starkest engagements a day after she was announced following a backlash from his fellow Conservatives and opposition parties.

In the first big misstep of his campaign, Truss has outlined plans to save billions of pounds a year in government spending as part of a pledge that opponents say would require cutting the pay of public sector workers , including nurses and teachers, outside the affluent South East of England. .

Truss had said Monday night that she would introduce regional wage boards rather than having a national wage deal, matching wages to the cost of living where people actually work.

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But after criticism on Tuesday, Truss said: “It was never my intention to change the terms of use for teachers and nurses. But what I want to be clear is that I will not be going moving forward with regional compensation commissions.”

The U-turn came as a poll showed Truss had a smaller lead over rival Rishi Sunak than previously thought.

A July 19-27 survey of 807 Conservative Party members by Italian data firm Techne found Truss had 48% support, compared with 43% for former finance minister Sunak.

The result suggests a much tighter race than a previous poll of Tory members conducted by YouGov on July 20-21, which gave Truss a 24-point lead over Sunak. Read more


Truss’s public sector pay plan had faced criticism from the main opposition Labor Party and some Tory lawmakers.

The Conservatives won the biggest majority in three decades in the 2019 national election by shaking up conventional British politics and winning in more industrial areas of central and northern England by pledging to reduce regional inequality.

A conservative lawmaker supporting Truss said the miscalculation would hurt the rest of the campaign.

“It was a completely avoidable mistake, but I don’t think it will ultimately prevent him from being prime minister,” he said.

Sunak supporter Ben Houchen, the Conservative mayor of Tees Valley, said he was “speechless” over the proposal.

Millions of nurses, police officers and soldiers would have seen their salaries cut by 1,500 pounds ($1,828) a year, Sunak’s campaign said.

Rachel Reeves, Labour’s finance spokeswoman, said Truss’ plan would have sucked money from local communities.

“This latest mess has revealed exactly how Liz Truss feels about public sector workers across Britain,” she said.

Sunak and Truss are vying for the votes of around 200,000 Conservative members who will choose the next prime minister, with the winner announced on September 5.

Taxes have dominated the election race so far. Sunak accused Truss of being “dishonest” with voters over his promises of immediate tax cuts, saying he would wait until inflation was under control before cutting taxes. Truss says that would plunge the country into recession.

More than 60% of conservatives in the Techne poll said Truss had better ideas on taxation and inflation than Sunak. They also favored his immigration plans.

However, respondents said Sunak had better policies on Brexit and energy.

John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde and one of Britain’s leading polling experts, said with so few polls it was hard to be sure the race was still over for Sunak .

“We may not know as much as everyone is confidently claiming,” he told GB News on Monday.

“In a race that had certainly seen some pretty sweeping and bold proposals made by both candidates…we certainly don’t know what impact, if any, that had on the Tory membership as a whole.”

($1 = 0.8205 pounds)

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Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Tomasz Janowski, Christina Fincher and Mike Harrison

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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