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Former chancellor Sajid JavidEPA

Former chancellor Sajid Javid has backed Liz Truss to become the next Conservative leader, calling for urgent tax cuts in an attack on her rival Rishi Sunak’s economic plans.

Mr Javid, who withdrew his own bid to be leader last month before voting began, said Mr Sunak’s plans could make the UK a “middle-income economy”.

He said Ms Truss was best placed to rise to “the challenges of our age”.

His endorsement came ahead of the latest leadership hustings in Wales.

Mr Sunak and Ms Truss are vying to win over Conservative Party members, whose votes will determine which of them will become the next Tory leader and British prime minister.

The party’s roughly 160,000 members started receiving ballots this week, with the result due on 5 September, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson will leave office.

Wednesday’s hustings event in Cardiff marks the first time either candidate has visited Wales since the leadership contest began.

Much of their debates have focused on tax policy, with Ms Truss vowing to scrap a planned rise in National Insurance, while Mr Sunak has said he would cut taxes “responsibly” once inflation had come down.

It has been a mixed few days on the campaign trail for Ms Truss after she received backing from former rival Penny Mordaunt but then was forced to scrap plans to link public sector pay to local living costs following a backlash. She said her plan had been “misrepresented”.

But Mr Javid’s endorsement gives her campaign another boost and means she now has the backing of five of the other candidates who were originally nominated for the leadership.

BBC graphic showing Tory leadership polls

The endorsement is bruising for Mr Sunak, who worked with Mr Javid in the Treasury and succeeded him as chancellor in 2020.

The pair – who both had careers in finance – had previously appeared friendly, with Mr Sunak tweeting about a Star Wars cinema outing with Mr Javid in 2019.

Writing in the Times newspaper, Mr Javid said “tax cuts now are essential”, arguing the “circumstances we are now in require a new approach” to economic policy.

Mr Javid, who directly preceded Mr Sunak as chancellor, warned that the UK risked “sleepwalking into a big-state, high-tax, low-growth, social democratic model which risks us becoming a middle-income economy by the 2030s”.

Mr Javid launched a leadership bid but, struggling to win enough support, dropped out of the race early before candidates were nominated by Conservative MPs.

Mr Javid and Mr Sunak resigned from their cabinet roles within minutes of each other last month, triggering a ministerial mutiny that forced Mr Johnson to quit as Tory leader.

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