Liz Truss vs Rishi Sunak: Where do they stand on women’s issues?

A leadership contest to name Boris Johnson’s successor as UK Prime Minister has been whittled down to ex-chancellor Rishi Sunak and foreign secretary Liz Truss.

A new YouGov poll, published on Tuesday, found that 60 per cent of Conservative party members surveyed between 29 July and 2 August intend to vote for Truss, putting her in the lead by 34 points.

Support for Sunak has dipped, with just 26 per cent of the 1,043 members polled saying they would vote for him.

Both candidates have been busy pitching themselves to party members. Sunak has promised to reduce personal taxes by 20 per cent before 2029 – which he described as the “largest cut to income tax in 30 years”.

Earlier this week, he also pledged the introduction of no-show fines of £10 for people who “misuse” the NHS in a bid to help the health service recover from Covid-19 backlogs.

Meanwhile, Truss has promised £30bn worth of tax cuts within weeks of taking office as a way of helping people through the cost-of-living crisis.

Truss pledged to reverse the National Insurance increase (which came into effect in April).

“The tax cuts I’m talking about will be delivered on day one because we have an immediate issue that families are struggling with the cost of fuel, with the cost of food,” she said during a campaign visit to Devon.

“That’s why I will reverse the increase in National Insurance. I’ll also have a temporary moratorium on the green energy levy to cut fuel bills.”

Separately, she has placed her focus on reforming the education sector, including widening access to top institutions, like the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and placing less importance on predicted grades.

Sunak and Truss have also made pledges to show they are prepared to act on violence against women and girls.

Sunak has promised to criminalise down-blousing, while Truss said she would work to create a National Domestic Abuse Register to tackle repeat offending by abusive men.

But as the pair go head-to-head for the vote of around 160,000 party members, where do they really stand on women’s issues? Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

Neither Truss or Sunak have strongly supported women’s reproductive rights during their political careers.

Sunak, who served as the chancellor throughout the Covid-19 pandemic before resigning from the position last month, has abstained from all major votes on abortion rights since becoming an MP in 2015.

Women provide unpaid childcare

Sunak has cast just one pro-abortion vote – in April 2021, when he voted in favour of a motion to give the Northern Ireland secretary powers to impose the commissioning of abortion services in the country.

He failed to support bills on key abortion rights issues, such as a 2018 bill that would have introduced “buffer-zones” outside abortion clinics across the UK and abstained on the vote to continue the “pills by post” scheme introduced during the pandemic.

Truss cast her vote to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland, but also sat out votes on buffer-zones.

As the Minister for Women and Equalities, she has been criticised by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) for ignoring its demands to publicly denounce the US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade in June.

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