Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak face grilling from Tory members in first official hustings

Tory leadership contenders held first hustings in Leeds on Thursday evening to explain their policies and respond to questions from party members

Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss speaks at a hustings event, part of the Conservative party leadership campaign, in Leeds, Britain July 28, 2022. Reuters
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UK Conservative leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak took their campaigns to northern England on Thursday to lay out their cases to become the next prime minister to party members.

Seeking to woo northern votes in the race for No 10, the candidates were quizzed separately on a vast array of policy areas — as well as their predictions for the Women’s Euro 2022 final.

The final two contenders will hold another 11 sessions for the party faithful across the country before voting for the next Tory leader and prime minister closes on September 2.

The event, hosted by LBC’s Nick Ferrari, took place in Leeds, where Ms Truss started by capitalising on her Yorkshire roots.

Referencing her upbringing in the city, she said it was “fantastic” to be in her “old stomping ground” and added that she hoped none of her former teachers were in the audience.

Ms Truss said she learnt “grit, determination and straight-talking” from Yorkshire and that this is what is needed in Downing Street as “we face a huge, global economic crisis”.

The foreign secretary also made reference to her relocation to Norfolk, the site of her constituency, and the fact she has become a supporter of Norwich City FC.

She said: “I do want us to channel the spirit of [former Leeds United and England manager] Don Revie [because] we need to win.

“And, my friends, we can win against Keir Starmer, who is a patronising plastic patriot.”

Former chancellor Mr Sunak said he was “having the time of my life” campaigning for the top job.

He spoke on his approach to punishing Russia for its war Ukraine.

“If we can have a buyers’ cartel in the world where everyone would agree to pay a fixed amount for Russian energy and enforce that through secondary sanctions, which we were working on how to do, that would be a way to make sure we get the energy we need at prices that are far better for us and deprive Russia of revenue that is funding its war effort,” he said.

Ms Truss told the hustings she would return the whips’ office to 12 Downing Street.

She also insisted “single-sex spaces should be protected”, particularly for young people.

Addressing Ms Truss, an audience member called for a policy that guarantees girls can go to the toilet in a safe environment in any school in the country.

“I completely agree with you. I have sought to clarify that, as women’s minister, I’ve been very clear that single-sex spaces should be protected, particularly for young people, as well as … vulnerable women in domestic violence shelters, for example,” the foreign secretary responded.

“And I can assure you, as prime minister, I would direct that to happen, because our girls need … 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. So, I 100 per cent agree with you and I would make that happen.”

Meanwhile, parts of the audience at the Tory hustings clapped when the host mentioned support for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to be included on the ballot.

“Tonight’s hustings showed why Liz is the right person to lead our party and country,” said a representative of Ms Truss’s campaign.

“She has a bold and ambitious plan for Britain. She will unleash the full potential of our great country, and stand up for people who work hard and do the right thing.

“Liz can be trusted to deliver on Brexit, on the economy and defend freedom at home and abroad.”

Members impressed as they leave first Tory leadership hustings

Conservative Party members leaving the first Tory leadership hustings in Leeds said they were relieved both candidates had come across as potential prime ministers.

But some of the biggest rounds of applause inside the Centenary Pavilion at Leeds United’s Elland Road ground were reserved for questions suggesting Mr Johnson should be on the ballot.

“I was very impressed by both candidates but particularly by Liz Truss,” said Neil Buckley from Leeds.

“She gives me, as a Conservative, more of a vision about where are actually going — smaller state and lower taxation.

“There’s a few weeks to go but on tonight’s showing I will be voting for Liz Truss.

“For me, I just found Rish Sunak was just slightly steady-as-she-goes, but I think we’re in a pretty desperate situation at the moment and I think we need something a little more.”

“I was impressed with the hustings. I was impressed with the tone,” said Maria Broadhead from Pickering in North Yorkshire.

“I think Liz Truss performed the best I have seen her perform. I think she answered all the questions that needed answering.

“She gave me confidence that she would be a capable prime minister, but I think we are in safe hand and either would make a good premier.

“I think Rishi’s got a lot of integrity and I think Liz has a lot of commonsense ideas.”

Zahir Khan travelled from London to make sure he was at the first of the planned hustings.

“I think both candidates are excellent and we are in safe hands,” said Dr Khan.

“It’s about whoever can hold the country together. There are some big challenges.”

He added that, as a party, Conservatives need “to become ‘we’ rather than ‘I’".

“I think there was a lot of people who liked Boris and are not happy we’re in this situation, but we are where we are,” said Geoff Parsons from Bradford.

“We’ve got to pick one of these and I think that probably Liz Truss will get it.”

Updated: July 28, 2022, 11:49 PM