Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak Tory leadership hustings in Darlington gets under way – UK politics live

Key events

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Truss takes questions

Truss is taking questions now. Newton Dunn is asking them.

Q: Rishi Sunak would spend billions on helping people with energy bills. Would you do that?

Truss says her priority is cutting tax. That would help the economy grow.

She does not believe in taking money from people in tax and then handing it back to them. That is “Gordon Brown economics”, she claims. It led to a slow growth economy.

(In fact, economic growth has been even slower in the 12 years since Brown left office than it was before.)

Newton Dunn says he can see more Sunak supporters than Truss ones in the audience. People wearing Truss T-shirts make themselves visible, and Newton Dunn says he can see them now.

Q: What would you do about business rates?

Sunak says he has cut business rates. And he says he would do the same as PM. Helping high streets is an absolute priority, he says.

That’s it now. The Sunak questions have finished.

Q: Why don’t you reduce the double taxation people pay on fuel?

Sunak says he represents a rural constituency. He introduced the biggest ever fuel duty cut. But that was not passed on, he says. He says there is a problem with the way the market works.

He says he believes in focusing on interventions that work.

As an MP for a rural area, he has also been conscious of the need to help people who are not on the gas grid, he says.

Q: I find the term recreational drugs objectionable. Children are suffering as a result.

Sunak says he agrees. He approaches this as a parent. He has never taken drugs, and he will be “incredibly tough” on people who do and those who supply them.

He also says he will be tough on grooming gangs. He wants the ethnicity of offenders to be recorded. No government he leads will let political correctness get in the way of dealing with this, he says.

Q: What does levelling up mean? I don’t want a political answer, I want a practical, man to man answer?

Sunak says he wants everyone in the UK, wherever they live, to have fantastic opportunities, and pride in their home.

The questioner says he still does not understand the policy. Stockton has high rates of crime. Huge sums of money are being spent, but the town still has problems. And there are not enough jobs in the centre.

Sunak says enabling people to be proud of where they lives involves tackling problems like crime.

Q: What is your attitude to climate change? And what will you do to encourage innovation?

Sunak says his daughters, aged nine and 11, are only interested in the climate change aspect of his job. They do not ask about anything else.

He says we in the UK have to provide the new technologies of the future. And it is happening in the north-east, he says.

He is committed to addressing climate change, but in a “pro-innovation” way, he says.

Having taking questions from Newton Dunn, Sunak is now taking questions from the audience.

Q: Do you know the quote that he who wields the dagger never inherits the throne?

Sunak says the questioner is wrong. He did not wield the dagger. He says the government was on the wrong side of an ethical decision, and nearly 60 people were resigning.

Q: Do you really believe you are the only candidate who can beat Keir Starmer?

Yes, says Sunak.

Q: Should the privileges committee inquiry into Boris Johnson continue?

Sunak says he trusts the MPs on the committee to take the right decisions.

(That is not a direct yes but the members of the committee want to carry on with their inquiry – at least, they do now – and so in practice that’s a yes.)

Q: Was Boris Johnson to blame for his own downfall?

Yes, says Sunak.

Q: Your family is wealthier than the Queen’s. How can you know what life is like for people?

Sunak says he has been asked that many times. In this country people judge you by your actions and your character, not your bank accounts.

He says he now is working to give other people the same chances in life he has had.

Newton Dunn puts it to Sunak that, although he claims “efficiency savings” will fund his next energy support package, that is not possible.

Sunak says Newton Dunn is wrong. He says he has found £1bn through efficiency savings to fund military aid to Ukraine.

Tories will be ‘absolutely hammered’ at election if they don’t target energy bills support on those most in need, says Sunak

Q: You spent £15bn on your last support package for energy bills. Are you willing to spend the same again?

Sunak says last time he provided help to people most in need. He will do the same again. And he will go further this time, because bills are going up.

He says Truss was “wrong” to rule out direct support for households. (Truss did say last week she was opposed to “handouts” but now she is not ruling out that sort of support.)

Sunak says the Tories should target help on people who need it most. If they don’t, “the British people will not forgive us”, he says.

Our support should be targeted, not on massive tax cuts for very wealthy people, it should be targeted on helping the people who most need it.

And if we don’t do that, I can tell you not only will millions of people suffer, we will get absolutely hammered when it comes to an election. The British people will not forgive us for not doing that.

This is a version of the argument used by Dominic Raab in his Times article this morning. See 9.13am.

Sunak takes questions

The first half of the hustings, the opening speeches, is over. The two candidates are now taking questions.

Sunak goes first.

Q: Why are you so behind?

Sunak says the campaign has only just started.

Truss says the next PM will have to be someone who can deliver.

As international trade secretary, she delivered trade deals. People said it could not be done, she claimed. But she she delivered more and better deals.

And she claims that she got the Northern Ireland protocol bill through parliament.

(That is not true. It has gone through the House of Commons, but it has not started its passage through the Lords yet, and it is widely expected that when peers do start considering it, they will remove many of its key components.)


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