WEST DEVON’S two Conservative MPs are throwing their weight behind former Chancellor the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to become the next Prime Minister in September.

Sir Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon) and Mel Stride (Central Devon) are both backing Mr Sunak in the current Tory leadership contest. Meanwhile, over the border in Cornwall, South East Cornwall’s Conservative MP Sheryll Murray is rooting for his opponent, Liz Truss.

Sir Geoffrey took to the pages of national newspaper The Telegraph to elaborate on his support for Mr Sunak, who gained popularity during the covid pandemic for his ‘eat out to help out’ campaign and furlough scheme. He believes in tax cuts, but not now, whereas Ms Truss believes taxes should be cut to stimulate the economy.

Sir Geoffrey said that only Mr Sunak had the qualities needed ‘to unite the party and restore its reputation for mature and competent government’.

In a comment piece published in the Telegraph, Sir Geoffrey said Mr Sunak is the only one with the ‘seriousness of purpose, consistency of conviction and belief, the talent as a communicator and the human skills to unite the party and to restore its reputation for mature and competent government’.

Sir Geoffrey, himself a dyed-in-the-wool Brexiteer, believes the pro-Brexit candidate is the only individual that can restore the country’s economy and navigate Britain through Brexit and the current cost of living crisis.

He even went as far as to compare Mr Sunak to Margaret Thatcher as someone who could push through difficult policies.

Meanwhile, Mr Stride, while acknowledging that they ‘did not agree on everything,’ as Mr Sunak had campaigned for Brexit while Mr Stride voted for Remain, said Mr Sunak had ‘earned his respect’ as Chancellor when he had had course to grill him over economic policy as chairman of House of Commons Treasury Select Committee.

‘As Chancellor, Rishi Sunak did a lot of good for businesses and families here in Central Devon,’ he said.

‘He provided tens of millions of pounds for the new rail service between Okehampton and Exeter that has given more than 15,000 people access to a local rail connection for the first time in 50 years. He supported local businesses and workers during the pandemic through small business grants, the furlough scheme and help for the self-employed.’

A key difference between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss is that Mr Sunak does not believe that tax cuts would be a good idea at the moment, whereas Ms Truss backs them as a means of stimulating the economy.

Mr Stride said he felt Mr Sunak was sound on economic policy. ‘Through my role as chair of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee I have got to know the former Chancellor well. I have pressed him hard on many issues – he listened and on the big calls he got it right. He has an eye for detail, doesn’t dodge tough questions and genuinely cares about helping people.’

He added: ‘He made the tough calls needed to tackle the growing challenges of social care funding and while taxes rose (understandably) during the pandemic, more recently they have been falling and when inflation is coming down he will cut taxes further.

‘Doing so now when inflation is so high would just add to price rises and increase mortgage costs for millions.’

Meanwhile, Ms Murray explained why she was backing Liz Truss, who she believes is the candidate who will support local farmers post-Brexit.

‘I am backing Liz Truss to be our next Prime Minister. She has shown loyalty to the country by not quitting her job when international affairs are so important,’ she said. ‘She has shown she is willing to work hard fighting a leadership election and being Foreign Secretary. She has shown consistency in her political goals and not flip flopped on policy. Loyalty, hard work and consistency is why I am backing Liz for leader. I trust her to deliver.’