Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss facing Tory members in Leeds for first official leadership hustings – UK politics live

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Conservative leadership candidate Rishi Sunak speaks at a hustings event in Leeds.
Conservative leadership candidate Rishi Sunak speaks at a hustings event in Leeds. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters
Liz Truss answers questions from LBC’s Nick Ferrari as she takes part in a Conservative party hustings event in Leeds.
Liz Truss answers questions from LBC’s Nick Ferrari as she takes part in a Conservative party hustings event in Leeds. Photograph: Nigel Roddis/AFP/Getty Images

As you all catch your breath from that on the edge of your seat viewing, some reaction from the commentariat.

Liz Truss did seem more human and compared to previous hustings, where she was criticised for being robotic. She seemed to go down better in the room, from what could be gathered from watching online, but it is backed up by people in Leeds tonight.

Sunak still has a long way to go. The next hustings is in the cathedral city of Exeter next week.

I mean, whisper it, but Truss is increasingly good at this. I think she’s demonstrated in this campaign that if she wins she won’t be any sort of pushover for Labour.

— Rob Burley (@RobBurl) July 28, 2022

I’ve found this LBC format the most interesting as it’s been useful to see and hear from actual Tory members about what they care about. A lot of non Tory people may be shouting at the wireless but it’s been fascinating to hear from them directly.

— Ayesha Hazarika (@ayeshahazarika) July 28, 2022

Joking aside, the groans from those in the room to the guy asking why the triple lock remains in place symbolises the problem that the Tories need to face up to eventually – who votes for them when the old people die and the young cannot afford to buy houses? https://t.co/ivAeFDVpwa

— David Wilcock (@DavidTWilcock) July 28, 2022

Truss says that shortages of labour are the same across the world, in the US and Canada and not down to Brexit.

“In Europe they are also struggling to get workers on their farms as well. We have the seasonal agricultural workers scheme. I talked about my passion for British food, and I think it’s right we open up for these workers.”

Then a question about child benefits, and the threshold being £50k where if one of the parents get that income, they no longer qualify.

Truss repeats that she wants to reform the tax system. “We need to make sure it works with things like child benefit, but we need to simplify the system.”

She is then asked if Jeremy Hunt would get a job in her cabinet, she declines to answer but says jobs will be given out on the basis of whether they can do the job.

Final question, after the two hour marathon is about the difference between pensioners who have the triple lock on their pensions and younger people who are harder hit by the cost of living crisis.

Truss says she wants to get more people working part time, including retired people. “There are lots of roles that people can take up, and make a huge contribution to our society. People are living longer and one of the best things that David Cameron did was remove the compulsory retirement age.”

The foreign secretary then finishes up by reiterating her reforms to the planning system and housebuilding. And that’s it.

After a question about local authorities, Truss is challenged over her negative comments about the school she attended, which others have called inaccurate. “You make it sound like it’s some bog-standard comprehensive, it’s nothing like it,” the questioner says.

“I’m not claiming it was a sink school, it was an average comprehensive at the time. And at that average comprehensive under the auspices of Leeds city council there were too many kids able to leave school without the education they need, the teaching was patchy, we didn’t have league tables at the time, or a national curriculum, there were kids who fell through the cracks.

“There were low expectations of some of the pupils at the school, and sometimes those low expectations were about where those kids had come from in Leeds. There were different expectations from the kids from the middle class areas, than who had come from the council estate. I thought that was wrong.”

A question about mixed-sex toilets in schools, with an audience member saying that a lot of changes were made in schools during Covid closures, and that girls’ toilets were removed.

Truss replies: “I agree with you, I have sought to clarify that as women’s minister. I have been very clear that single sex spaces should be protected, particularly for young people, as well as vulnerable people, vulnerable women in domestic violence shelters, and I can assure you as prime minister, I would direct that to happen.

“Our girls, it’s a difficult time being a teenager, being a young girl and you should be able to have the privacy you need in your own loo.”

Truss says that she doesn’t believe teenagers should be able to make “irreversible decisions to do with their own bodies that they might later regret”. She adds that schools can provide additional facilities, but not by taking away single-sex toilets.

Truss backs more investment and transport links in the north.

In response to a following question, she says that she was sceptical about HS2, but now it is going ahead there needs to be a focus on value for money.

She adds that it needs to be done quicker, now we are out of the EU, and that different procurement rules have slowed us down.

Then a question about energy supply, and fracking. Truss says she supports it in areas where people want it to happen, and it can be part of the future for energy in the UK, in conjunction with nuclear power.

In response to an opening question about how to support children who suffered through the pandemic, Truss says that support wil be given to early years.

“We need kids who get to school to be able to count, to be able to read, to be able to do all those basic things to be able to benefit from a primary education.”

She adds she will push for education standards over English and maths to be improved.

Truss goes on to say that there should be more mental health support available in schools for children.

She says that she would not have closed schools during Covid. “There was a time where we kept pubs open but closed schools.”

Truss says the attempt to rewrite parliamentary rules to try and support Owen Paterson was a mistake and she wouldn’t do it again, if similar circumstances repeated themelves. She adds that there needs to be more support for MPs.

After questions about Johnson’s support for Ukraine, and a prediction for the women’s Euros final on Sunday that’s it for Ferrari’s questions. On to the audience now.

Truss is asked about company profits, and is asked about windfall taxes. She says she doesn’t support another one as it puts off investment.

She said she would be encouraging Shell and other companies to invest in the UK to improve productivity. She would create low-tax investment zones to encourage more investment.

Truss seems to be addressing the audience as well as Ferrari, more than Sunak was doing earlier.

Ferrari brings up her previous republicanism and asks what happens if the Queen asks about it during their first audience.

“Almost as soon as I made the speech I regretted it. I was a bit of a teenage controversialist.

“Within these four walls, I was briefly a member of the Liberal Democrats, I did leave it when I was 21 when I came of age and realised the error of my ways.”

Truss said that Margaret Thatcher was the best Conservative PM, after “turning around the country … as the sick man of Europe”.

“What I sensed in the 1980s was a growing sense of pride in our country and a growing sense of optimism in our future. I think the pinnacle was when we saw the Berlin Wall fall. When we saw the freedom and democracy and pride in our values influencing the rest of the world.”

On to the yes or no questions.

Is Love Island misogynistic, Ferrari asks. Truss says she watched it recently with her daughter and was horrified but does not answer the question directly.

Then Ferrari asks if England and Wales should boycott the World Cup in Qatar, after previously backing a boycott of the Champions League final in Moscow. She says not.

“If we insisted that every contry we traded with, or did business with, or attended a football match in, had the same standards as the United Kingdom, we wouldn’t be doing business with many countries. We need to be pragmatic. What Russia did to Ukraine was beyond the pail.”

Truss then says she has never used illegal drugs.

Ferrari asks Truss if her plans really add up.

She says all of her tax reductions are costed.

“There is £30bn in the budget, and we will be able to start paying down debt in three years. It’s a false economy to raise taxes when it can cut off growth, we know that, we know what Britain was like in the 1970s with high taxes and militant trade unions. I didn’t agree with those people who say you can keep raising tax and the money will keep rolling in.”

She says people won’t want to work and won’t invest if taxes stay high.

Truss says that the tax system in the UK is too complicated, in response to a question about inheritance tax. It needs to be fairer, she says, and would look at inheritance tax.

“I’d look at the overall tax system in the round and make sure it’s fair. We need to reward people who do the right thing, who set up businesses, who earn money and want to pass it on to their children.”

Ferrari asks who was better, Theresa May or Boris Johnson after Truss served both of them.

“Put it this way, in the 2016 leadership election after the referendum I backed Boris first, then I backed Theresa May once Boris had left the race. I’ve always been a fan of Boris Johnson, I think he did a fantastic job as prime minister, he delivered Brexit, he delivered on the vaccine and I was proud to serve as a loyal member of his cabinet.”


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