Conservative leadership candidate Rishi Sunak brought his campaign to rural County Durham shortly after launching the final round drive to beat Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to Number Ten.

With the need now for the two surviving contenders to woo the Conservative membership in the contest to head not only the party, but to become the new Prime Minister, the Richmond MP opened his campaign in Grantham, Lincolnshire, the late Maggie Thatcher’s birthplace, on Saturday.

But he then travelled to the North East to talk to Conservatives in one of the region’s Red Wall seats that turned blue for the first time, at the 2019 General Election.

He was the guest of North West Durham MP Richard Holden at the local Conservative association’s Strawberry Tea, at a member’s farm near Eastgate, in Weardale.

Mr Holden, who has nailed his colours to Rishi’s ‘mast’ throughout the leadership campaign, said: “It was absolutely great that Rishi took time out to visit North West Durham Conservative members.

“His clear plans for taking on inflation and pressure on the cost of living, delivering on the pledge I was elected on to tackle illegal immigration and importantly to deal with the NHS backlog from Covid-19 went down really well with local members.

“I know that he’s the best candidate to take on and beat Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP at the next election.

“I hope every Conservative member in the North East backs his candidacy, as my constituents did, overwhelmingly, in my recent survey.”

Read more: Rishi Sunak hits out at ‘forces that be’ backing Liz Truss

The focus on day two of the Truss v Sunak contest turned to migration, with both candidates outlining how they would deal with the issue.

Mr Sunak has put forward a ten-point plan, including the capping of refugee numbers and allowing entry to the UK to only those who have arrived by safe and legal routes from places of “imminent danger”.

Ms Truss, who was visiting party members in Kent, has vowed to send more migrants arriving by illegal routes to Africa, under the controversial Rwanda asylum scheme.

A weekend poll published by Opinium suggested voters are largely split between the two candidates, with 43-per cent believing Mr Sunak would be a good Prime Minister, compared to 36pc for the Foreign Secretary.

Both are set to face each other on a BBC-televised debate on Monday, followed by further ‘face-offs’ later in the week.

Conservative members must lodge their votes by September 3 in the contest for Number Ten, with the result expected to be announced on September 5.

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