Tory leadership hustings – latest: Truss faces Sunak after claims she is ‘absent from duty’

Boris Johnson meets with Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Independence Day

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are facing yet another grilling from Tory party members as they try to win votes to become the next leader and prime minister.

The hustings, in Norwich, is on a day when both candidates have faced sharp criticism.

Ms Truss was accused of abandoning her duties as foreign secretary, having been absent from nearly all of her ministerial duties since she joined the Conservative leadership race nearly seven weeks ago, according to the Lib Dems.

And scientists hit back at Mr Sunak over his suggestion it was a “mistake” to empower experts during the coronavirus pandemic, in a series of claims labelled “dangerous rubbish” by former No 10 aide Dominic Cummings.

The ex-chancellor told the Spectator magazine that he “wasn’t allowed to talk about the trade-off” of lockdowns during the early phases of the Covid crisis, which he said could have been “quicker”, and claimed to have fought against the “fear narrative” which drove public messaging.

The rivals have been urged to “think the unthinkable” and consider raising income tax to fund further support for those struggling with rocketing energy bills, with the Resolution Foundation think-tank saying a 1 per cent rise – largely funded by the wealthiest fifth of UK households – would raise £9.5bn a year.

Key Points

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Truss ‘has plan for economic growth’

Liz Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, appealed to local support, saying it was time to have a Norfolk MP in Downing Street.

She said she wanted the UK to be an “aspiration nation”.

After two decades of relatively low growth, she said it could no longer be business as usual, referring to a plan she had for economic growth.

“We shouldn’t have put up National Insurance – we promised not to in our manifesto,” she said.

She said she would legislate immediately to stop militant trade unions disrupting services.

25 August 2022 19:39


Sunak ‘aims to reform NHS and tackle illegal migration’

Rishi Sunak, first to face questions from the audience in Norwich, hails education, opportunity, patriotism and hard work as of his values.

He said he would do it by restoring trust, rebuilding the economy and reuniting the country.

Reforming the NHS was part of it, as was taking on “this lefty woke culture”, he said.

Backing British farmers was another part.

And he had a plan to get rid of illegal migration, the former chancellor said.

25 August 2022 19:24


Tory party bars political reporter

Tonight’s hustings has got off to an inauspicious start, as a political reporter was told he was barred because his website’s coverage was “not favourable enough” to the Tory party.

25 August 2022 19:07


Minister promises more support on energy bills

The government will step up to help people more over the coming months, a minister has promised, ahead of record energy bills set to be announced on Friday.

Will Quince, an education minister, said there was no question there would be further support on top of that announced in May.

Energy bills are widely expected to exceed £3,500 a year for the average household from the start of October, compared with £1,971 today.

“There is no question in my mind whatsoever, both listening to the two leadership candidates but also just looking at our economy … that the Government is going to act and put in place a further package of support measures,” Mr Quince told LBC radio.

“Now, we will have to wait a couple of weeks for a new prime minister to set out their agenda alongside a new chancellor, but both leadership contenders have been clear there will be a fiscal event and more help will be coming.”

It comes amid increasing calls on the government to introduce radical support, comparable to the furlough and loan schemes at the start of the pandemic.

Resolution Foundation boss Torsten Bell said the massive spike meant that “radically rethought policy answers are needed otherwise we’re heading for thousands having their energy shut off and millions running up arrears”.

25 August 2022 18:54


Tax cuts key to addressing cost of living crisis, Truss says

Liz Truss said tax cuts and boosting energy supply were the key to addressing the cost-of-living crunch.

But she added that, if she is elected, her chancellor would look at “what else needs to be done” at a future budget.

“The approach I will take is first of all reducing people’s taxes, reversing the national insurance increase, but also having a temporary moratorium on the green energy levy to save people money on their fuel bills,” she told reporters at a factory near Norwich.

“The next thing I would do if I’m elected as prime minister is make sure we’re increasing energy supplies and becoming more energy independent, liberating gas from the North Sea, doing more nuclear and of course, in a future budget, the chancellor would need to look at what else needs to be done.

“But I’m very clear that what we shouldn’t be doing is taking money from people in taxes and then giving it back to them in benefits.”

25 August 2022 18:30


‘It’s an absolute priority’

After the heated interaction, Mr Barclay said that reducing ambulance waiting times is an “absolute priority” for the government.

He said: “There’s a range of measures that we’re taking.

“We’re looking at conveyance rates in ambulances, we’re looking at how we address variation in performance, we’re looking at funding – an extra £150 million to the ambulance service, a further £50 million into call centres, for 111 and 999, in terms of call handling, a further £30 million into St John Ambulance around the auxiliary ambulance performance.

“We’re also then looking at what happens with the ambulance handovers, so emergency departments, how we triage those, how we look at the allocation of this within the system.

“Of course, that is all connected to delayed discharge and people being ready to leave hospital who are not doing so, and that’s about the integration of care between social care and hospitals.

“So there’s a range of issues within how we deliver on ambulances, but it’s an absolute priority both for the government and for NHS England.”

25 August 2022 18:00


Health secretary confronted outside hospital

An angry member of the public has confronted health secretary Steve Barclay in the street, demanding to know why the government has done “nothing” about lengthy waits for ambulances.

The cabinet minister was speaking to media outside Moorfields Eye Hospital in Old Street, central London, when a woman interrupted him to highlight how “people have died” during waits for the emergency services.

During his interviews, a woman passing by approached Mr Barclay and asked him: “Are you going to do anything about the ambulances waiting, and the people dying out?”

Mr Barclay replied: “Of course we are,” but the woman continued: “Don’t you think 12 years is long enough? Twelve years – you’ve done bugger all about it. People have died, and all you’ve done is nothing.”

25 August 2022 17:45


‘Vital’ appointment of new Victims Commissioner delayed by government because ‘timing not appropriate’

The appointment of the “vital” Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales has been delayed by several months after the government re-started the process, our home affairs editor Lizzie Dearden reports.

The watchdog represents the interests of victims and witnesses of crime by advising the government, police and the wider criminal justice system, as well as looking at key issues like the handling of rape and domestic abuse.

A government email sent to parties interested in the appointment process on Friday said: “It has been decided that making this significant public appointment would not be appropriate at the present time. As a result, the recruitment process is set to be relaunched.”

No further details of why the timing was not “appropriate” was not given, but public appointment records suggest that the process stopped during the government meltdown earlier this summer.

25 August 2022 16:30


Sunak could have set up Sage group for economy, says Sage scientist

Professor John Edmunds, a leading epidemiologist and member of the government’s Sage advisory group, has responded to Rishi Sunak’s attack on Covid lockdowns and the influence of the scientists.

He said the group’s role was “quite narrow” in assessing the scientific evidence to help inform the political decision-makers.

The professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said “there may be some truth” to the idea that the scientific evidence often outweighed the economic data – but suggested it was Mr Sunak’s job to build up the economic impact.

“Where, for instance, was the equivalent of Sage and all its subgroups on the economic side? As the Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr Sunak could have set up such a system, but did not,” said Prof Edmunds.

25 August 2022 16:11


Truss accused of being ‘absent from duties’ as foreign secretary during Tory leadership race

Liz Truss has been accused of abandoning her duties as foreign secretary, having been absent from “nearly all” of her ministerial duties since she joined the Tory leadership race 46 days ago, according to the Lib Dems.

The party said Truss has held only two phone calls as foreign secretary, and no in-person meetings with ministerial counterparts or foreign ambassadors, since her last physical engagement at the G20 summit in Indonesia in early July.

“Liz Truss has decided to take a self-imposed sabbatical from her role as Britain’s most senior diplomat,” said the Lib Dems’ foreign affairs spokesperson Layla Moran.

“She has spent months more concerned with furthering her own career instead of standing up for the national interest,” Moran added. “Her mask has slipped and her disdain for diplomacy and Britain’s standing in the world is clear as day.”

Our political correspondent Adam Forrest has the full report:

25 August 2022 16:00

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