Borders Tories split on next leader

With the Conservatives leadership race approaching the last straight, the Borders’ Tory politicians have now chosen their favourites.

While Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont came out in support of Rishi Sunak following his first choice Penny Mordaunt’s departure from the race, Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton and Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP David Mundell are now firmly in the Liz Truss camp.

Mr Mundell was the latest to decide which side of the fence to step off, confirming his endorsement of the Foreign Secretary for the hotseat in an opinion article in today’s Daily Mail.

Former Scottish Secretary Mundell was a colleague of Ms Truss in David Cameron and Theresa May’s cabinets, and he claims she has the life experience, a “steely determination to champion the Union” along with an “ability to work with Nicola Sturgeon”, despite Ms Truss this week saying the best way to work with the First Minister is to ignore her.

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. Photo: Jonathan Hordle/ITV/Shutterstock.

In the article, Mr Mundell states: “As Trade Secretary she brought additional resources to Scotland and ended the longest-running trade dispute in history by securing the suspension of tariffs relating to Boeing-Airbus.

“This was a boon for Scottish businesses seeking to trade with our largest single trading partner, the United States, by removing tariffs on exports of whisky and cashmere, boosting sales of the UK’s biggest food and drink export around the world and supporting thousands of jobs across Scotland.

“As Foreign Secretary she ensured her department had a footprint across the whole UK and played a key role in the Government’s COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, the largest ever gathering of Presidents and Prime Ministers on British soil to champion a greener world.

“And now she is gripping the Northern Ireland Protocol, pioneering legislation to fix the issues in a way which upholds the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement while protecting the integrity of our United Kingdom.

“As Prime Minister, we can trust Liz to continue to deliver with the same clarity of purpose.”

Mr Mundell added: “She has a clear plan to level up the UK in a Conservative way through low-tax, low-regulation zones to incentivise and unlock the investment that drives growth in our communities.”

As for Rachael Hamilton, she used her column in this week’s Southern Reporter to explain why she, too, is on Ms Truss’s side.

She wrote: “With the topic of debate often circling back Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the UK, it is clear that this is a matter that Liz understands well. Having grown up in Paisley, she has an encouraging affinity for Scotland, and wants to see the whole of the United Kingdom succeed. She can stop Nicola Sturgeon from tearing apart our Union.

“Her track record is impressive, and her plan for the country even more so.

"I know that issues such as the cost of living and employment are key priorities for people in the Borders. Many of the powers to alleviate the issues we face are devolved to the Scottish Government. However, from day one, Liz Truss will look to cut bills for families, pause energy levies, scrap the National Insurance rise, and create opportunities for people to succeed in life regardless of their background.

“For me, these policies represent a step in the right direction for the country. The world is facing unprecedented challenges, and we need a bold and ambitious leader to get us through them. Liz would give us just that.”

Mr Lamont, on the other hand, has tipped Rishi Sunak to take the win ahead of his own old boss Ms Truss.

He said: “Rishi was the architect of the vital Covid-19 finance packages, including the Furlough Scheme, Self Employed Income Support Scheme, and Bounce Back Loan Scheme. These saved tens of thousands of Borders jobs during the pandemic. In the Borders alone, this delivered support for more than 17,500 jobs and provided over £78 million in loans to local businesses.

“With this impressive record, I am confident that Rishi will competently address the cost of living crisis as Prime Minister with his three-point economic plan to tackle inflation, grow the economy, and cut taxes.”

Mr Lamont said the Union was “high in Rishi’s priorities” and that he believed “his leadership will help us push back on those who are constantly calling for another independence referendum”.

However, it does seem that Mr Lamont could be backing the wrong horse once again, as yesterday’s poll of Conservative members (who will be making the final decision) showed Ms Truss taking a massive 32 percentage point lead over Mr Sunak.