Mon. Sep 26th, 2022

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Rishi Sunak has said he would back his rival for prime minister over Boris Johnson while Liz Truss shunned the former chancellor in favour of her outgoing boss as they squared up at the penultimate Tory leadership hustings.

The pair made now-familiar swipes at one another’s economic plans as they faced questions on a range of topics including spiralling energy bills, crime and Net Zero at the event in Norwich, the Press Association reported.

The former chancellor vowed not to pursue policies that “risk making inflation far worse and last far longer” – especially if they “amount to borrowing £50 billion and putting that on the country’s credit card”.

The foreign secretary, meanwhile, said raising corporation tax – something Sunak announced as chancellor – would “stop economic growth and put this country into a recession”.

Both candidates were asked who would make a better prime minister out of their rival or outgoing leader Boris Johnson. Sunak said he would prefer Ms Truss, as he called for the country to “move forward”.

However, the foreign secretary said she would rather Johnson had the top job, which drew loud applause and cheers from the audience.

In a quickfire round of questioning, Sunak also said he would prefer to “take the stairs” than be stuck in a lift with either Keir Starmer or Nicola Sturgeon. But Truss said she would pick Scotland’s first minister in that scenario, as the idea of being trapped with the Labour leader was “extremely boring”.

Former British Chancellor of the Exchequer and Tory leadership candidate Rishi Sunak at the Conservative Party leadership election hustings at the Holiday Inn Norwich North, Norwich.
Former British Chancellor of the Exchequer and Tory leadership candidate Rishi Sunak at the Conservative Party leadership election hustings at the Holiday Inn Norwich North, Norwich. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/EPA

Damien Gayle

Environmental protesters have taken action at petrol stations in central London, vandalising pumps, blockading entrances and spraypainting “no new oil” across signs.

The Just Stop Oil campaign said 51 of its supporters took part in the protests at seven petrol stations on Friday morning. Some groups staged sit-down protests at entrances or glued themselves to pumps, while others moved from station to station damaging pumps.

“Today’s action was timed to coincide with the announcement by Ofgem of a massive increase in electricity bills for October which will push millions more into poverty, forced to choose between heating and eating,” the group said in a statement.

We will of course have coverage as Westminster reacts to today’s news that households in Great Britain face a leap in energy bills from October after the regulator raised the energy price cap, taking the average gas and electricity bill to £3,549 a year.

My colleagues on the Guardian’s business desk are doing a stellar job of bringing you all the latest in news and reaction from that story. Follow along with that live blog here.

At last night’s Tory leadership hustings in Norwich, Liz Truss pledged “immediate support” to ease the sting of spiralling energy bills. The foreign secretary acknowledged the strain is “clear” at the checkout and the petrol pump, but insisted that Britain will “get through these tough times” – vowing to ensure help is “on its way”.

The final two in the race for No 10 have repeatedly come to blows over their economic policies, with Rishi Sunak warning his rival’s tax-cutting plans risk driving up inflation, while she has insisted they are key to addressing the cost-of-living crunch, the Press Association reported.

Truss previously signalled she could help firms and households with soaring energy bills with direct support this winter. She was looking at assistance “across the board” despite in the past insisting she was focused on slashing taxes, rather than what she termed “giving out handouts”.

Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss answers questions at a hustings event, part of the Conservative party leadership campaign, in Norwich.
Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss answers questions at a hustings event, part of the Conservative party leadership campaign, in Norwich. Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

Meanwhile, Liz Truss has also faced a rebuke from the German ambassador to the UK, who warned that the relationship with France is of “crucial importance”.

Miguel Berger, appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, was asked about comments by the foreign secretary after she said the “jury’s out” on whether French president Emmanuel Macron is “friend or foe” to the UK.

“I would say that the relationship with France is of crucial importance for the United Kingdom, so my recommendation would be really to look for a relationship that is as close as possible,” he said.

Pressed on whether Truss’s comments were wise, he said: “The relationship with France should be as close as possible.

“I think there needs to be an effort to reach a good understanding and cooperation with our French neighbours.”

Truss criticised for saying ‘jury’s out’ on Macron relationship

Good morning. As we head into the bank holiday weekend, the Conservative leadership frontrunner Liz Truss was accused of “playing to the gallery” and risking worsened diplomatic relations with France after she said the “jury’s out” on president Emmanuel Macron.

The foreign secretary told Tory members at a leadership hustings in Norwich on Thursday that she was undecided as to whether her counterpart in Paris was “friend or foe”.

A number of issues have affected the UK and France in recent months, including boat crossings in the Channel and travel chaos around Dover, which Truss blamed on a lack of staffing by the French authorities.

TalkTV’s Julia Hartley-Brewer, the event host, asked Truss: “President Macron, friend or foe?”

“The jury’s out,” she responded to loud applause. “But if I become prime minister, I would judge him on deeds, not words.”

By contrast, her rival the former chancellor Rishi Sunak quickly answered “friend” when asked the same question.

Labour warned that the comment, which could be seen to risk straining tensions with France, showed a “terrible and worrying lack of judgement”.

Meanwhile, the former Conservative minister Gavin Barwell also questioned the remark, tweeting: “You would have thought the Foreign Secretary was aware we are in a military alliance with France”.

  • I’m Tom Ambrose, covering for Andrew Sparrow today and throughout much of next week too. If you want to message me directly, you can find me on Twitter @tomambrose89.





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