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Another Tory defects to Liz Truss’ camp as Alun Cairns throws weight behind the leadership hopeful

Another Tory defects to Liz Truss’ camp as Alun Cairns throws weight behind the leadership hopeful

A third Conservative MP has publicly switched from supporting Rishi Sunak to Liz Truss in the Tory leadership race.

Writing for The Mail+, former Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said he believed the Foreign Secretary is best placed to save the Union between England and the rest of the UK.

His defection provides a fresh boost for Miss Truss as the candidates prepare to take part in hustings in Scotland and Northern Ireland this week.

With just three weeks until the next prime minister is announced, she is the runaway favourite after building a commanding lead in opinion polls of Tory members.

Liz Truss (pictured) at the Conservative Party leadership election hustings at Cheltenham. The Foreign Secretary is the current favourite to win the election

Mr Cairns’ decision to change sides will be seen as further confirmation that Miss Truss is on course to win.

Voters would choose Truss over Starmer for PM 

Voters believe Liz Truss would be a better prime minister than Sir Keir Starmer, a poll has shown.

The Redfield and Wilton survey found that 41 per cent would prefer to see the Foreign Secretary in No10, with 37 per cent choosing the Labour leader.

But Sir Keir was seen as more popular than her leadership rival Rishi Sunak, according to the poll of 2,000 people. Some 41 per cent backed Sir Keir compared with just 34 per cent who chose the ex-chancellor.

A separate Opinium poll of Tory members gave Miss Truss a 22-point lead over Mr Sunak – putting her on 61 per cent.

He wrote: ‘At the outset of the campaign, I met Rishi Sunak to discuss the future of the Union and was content with his responses. I chose to support him.

‘However, as the campaign has developed, the risks to our Union have become more apparent.

‘There is a need to break out of the current orthodoxy. The future of our Union depends on it.

‘For this reason, I have concluded that with the positive ambition for our country and imagination she has shown, alongside her strong track record as a reformer, Liz Truss is best placed to secure our Union.’

Mr Cairns said he had seen Miss Truss reform three Whitehall departments ‘impressively’.

He added: ‘Reforming the culture across the whole of Whitehall to improve outcomes in all nations will be a greater challenge – but the prize of a stable and united Union will be worth it.

‘With Liz, we will succeed and celebrate as one country.’

Miss Truss and Mr Sunak will take part in a hustings in Perth today before heading to Belfast tomorrow.

The defection of Mr Cairns – who served as Welsh Secretary for three years under David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson – comes days after Sir Robert Buckland announced he was no longer endorsing Mr Sunak.

The current Welsh Secretary became the first Cabinet minister to publicly switch his support, writing in the Daily Telegraph that he had changed his mind over the course of the leadership campaign.

Ex-universities minister Chris Skidmore has also defected.

It came as veteran Brexiteer Sir Bill Cash announced he would be supporting Miss Truss.

Mr Sunak appears to have fallen behind in the Tory leadership race

The MP for Stone, who is chairman of the Commons European scrutiny committee, tweeted: ‘Being a real Brexiteer for sovereignty, democracy and self-government, I have voted for Liz Truss.

‘She has led from the front on Ukraine, repeal of EU law, saving Northern Ireland and real policies for economic growth.’

Last night Miss Truss launched a fresh attack on Nicola Sturgeon.

Writing in the Scottish Daily Mail, she vowed to ‘take on’ Scotland’s First Minister who she said was ‘increasingly out of touch’.

With ambition and imagination, Liz Truss is best placed to secure our Union, writes ALUN CAIRNS 

The challenges facing our next prime minister have been well documented: Energy and food price rises, the resultant inflation, predictions by some of a recession, and conflict in Europe amongst many others.

For me, however, the maintenance of the Union of the United Kingdom must be central to our new leader’s thinking and at the heart of the solutions.

As the hustings move to Scotland and Northern Ireland these matters come to the fore.

Since 1999 we have experienced greater divisions between our family of nations and have spent too little time reminding ourselves of the strength of our Union.

We need to celebrate our history and culture, recognising the things we have achieved together and the great future we hold – together.

Alun Cairns MP, who served as Welsh Minister from 2016 to 2019, is now backing Liz Truss to be the next Prime Minister

Devolution has created an environment that has facilitated separation, rather than support our common interests. Leading figures in Edinburgh and Cardiff Bay have taken different decisions for the sake of being different.

The whole machinery of government has been focused on pleasing politicians in devolved parliaments.

The next prime minister needs to act with imagination in the interests of people living in the nations and for the whole of the United Kingdom.

Having served as Secretary of State for Wales under three different prime ministers, I am more than familiar with the ‘devolve and forget’ mentality and with the scale of the challenge to reshape thinking.

Whitehall needs to support our Union, rather than undermine it. The scale of this challenge should not be underestimated. Unless we act, we are heading for a federal state at best or separate nations at worst.

At the outset of the campaign, I met Rishi Sunak to discuss the future of the Union and was content with his responses. I chose to support him.

However, as the campaign has developed, the risks to our Union have become more apparent. There is a need to break out of the current orthodoxy. The future of our Union depends on it.

For this reason, I have concluded that with the positive ambition for our country and imagination she has shown, alongside her strong track record as a reformer, Liz Truss is best placed to secure our Union.

During my time in Cabinet, I have seen her reform three separate departments impressively – always focused on improving outcomes.

Reforming the culture across the whole of Whitehall to improve outcomes in all nations will be a greater challenge – but the prize of a stable and united Union will be worth it.

With Liz, we will succeed and celebrate as one country.

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