Tory leadership race: Truss takes on Sunak in Manchester – as it happened – The Guardian

The two candidates faced questions from Conservative members on the NHS, trade unions, and energy bills
Michael Gove has backed Rishi Sunak to be the next Conservative leader, accusing Liz Truss of taking a “holiday from reality”.
He told The Times: “I do not expect to be in government again. But it was the privilege of my life to spend 11 years in the cabinet under three prime ministers. I know what the job requires. And Rishi has it.”
Gove, who was sacked as the levelling up secretary by Boris Johnson, added: “And here I am deeply concerned that the framing of the leadership debate by many has been a holiday from reality.
“The answer to the cost-of-living crisis cannot be simply to reject further ‘handouts’ and cut tax.”
Labour has urged Boris Johnson to recall parliament next week so the government can offer more help to struggling households before the announcement of the new energy price cap. The opposition has written to the prime minister and both Tory leadership candidates warning that it is a “crucial deadline” for government action to tackle soaring energy bills, after inflation topped 10% for the first time in 40 years.
At the latest hustings in Manchester, Liz Truss sidestepped a question about a 2009 report which she co-authored emerging today which called for doctors pay to be cut by 10%. She said doctors and nurses “feel like they are being told what to do from Whitehall rather than understanding the situation in their local area and being able to respond to their patients’ needs”. The foreign secretary also called for more transparency about the police’s record on fighting crime and having league tables for forces.
At the hustings, Rishi Sunak was asked how he will deal with trade unions and said: “We need to crack on and pass a piece of legislation,” he says, referring to the minimum service bill which means they will not be able to hold the country “to ransom”. On crime, Sunak said he wants a new unit in the National Crime Agency to deal with grooming gangs and says we need to record the ethnicity of perpetrators.
A former executive at the oil company BP has called for increases to the energy price cap to be scrapped and for suppliers that fail to help households struggling with bills to be nationalised. Nick Butler, who worked for BP for almost 30 years and was group vice-president for strategy and development, said that expected rises in the cap should be abandoned by the industry regulator, Ofgem, which he said had been “overwhelmed by events” after turmoil in the global energy markets sent 29 British energy retailers to the wall.
Conservative leadership frontrunner Liz Truss has been accused of showing “her true colours” in an 2009 paper promoting government spending cuts including slashing doctors’ pay. Truss called for patients to be charged to see their GP and for doctors’ pay to be slashed by 10% in a controversial report she co-authored when she was deputy director of the Reform thinktank, TalkTV discovered.
Railway changes will be imposed if workers do not agree to new deals, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has said. The Conservative party has repeatedly targeted unions with criticism, in a move that the Trades Union Congress has argued is deliberately “picking a fight” for electoral purposes.
The frontrunner to be the UK’s next prime minister has made her views on unions clear: she has approvingly tweeted a report that she intends to make striking more difficult. “New laws will make it harder to call strikes and also guarantee minimum levels of service are maintained on public transport”, according to a report by the Daily Express, a newspaper which is strongly pro-government and is supporting Truss in the Conservative leadership race.
The under-fire rail operator Avanti West Coast has been “rewarded for failure”, Labour said, after the company was paid more than £17m in taxpayers’ money by ministers for performance and management fees in just two years, despite being the worst-performing operator on the rail network. The figures from 2019-20 and 2020-21 include almost £4m in bonuses to Avanti for “operational performance”, “customer experience” and “acting as a good and efficient operator”.
The UK’s transport department has announced £130m of funding for England’s bus network to make up for shortfalls in revenues caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The cash would help to cover six months of operations by the private companies who run England’s buses from October 2022 to March 2023, the government said.
A green thinktank has criticised Rishi Sunak’s promise to protect farmland from solar farms, saying biofuels use 77 times the amount of arable land. Dustin Benton, policy director at Green Alliance, said: “Solar energy isn’t standing in the way of food production in the UK. Instead, solar panels generate cheap, clean energy that doesn’t depend on Russia, and provide income to farmers too.”
Rishi Sunak’s campaign has hit out at frontrunner Liz Truss after she declined to attend a hustings organised by the National Farmers’ Union. Farmers now expect Truss to take part in a hustings with the NFU in September, after she was initially accused of snubbing the organisation by deciding not to attend the event on Friday.
Constituents of the Covid rule-breaking MP Margaret Ferrier are said to be “aghast” that she remains in post, as calls for her to resign gathered pace after she pleaded guilty on Thursday to “culpably and recklessly” exposing the public to the virus. The former Scottish National party politician, who now sits as an independent MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, faced immediate calls to stand down.
And that brings the hustings to an end.
The remaining hustings are Birmingham on August 23, Norwich on August 25 and London on August 31.
Truss was criticised by an audience member for “sounding like Labour” in wanting to “borrow £50 billion”.
The foreign secretary did not address the criticism but said her fundamental view is that high taxes fail to bring money in to the Exchequer.
Asked by an audience member whether she would build more houses to solve the housing crisis, Truss instead cites her plans to help people secure mortgages and criticised the planning system.
Truss declares she does “support fracking in areas where there is local support”, adding that the local communities should stand to benefit.
The foreign secretary also backs nuclear power and with drilling in the North Sea.
Asked whether local objections from “Nimbys” should be overruled, Truss says local communities need to be shown the benefits and this involves “encouraging” rather than overruling.
Sunak earlier spoke about wanting his football team Southampton to beat Manchester United this weekend, despite them in fact being scheduled to face Leicester City.
He was asked at the Manchester hustings how as a Southampton FC fan how he would get back to winning ways.
“I’m going to be unpopular for saying it here, starting by beating United this weekend,” he said.
Southampton are not due to play Manchester United until August 27.
Truss suggested that retired doctors could be asked to help clear the Covid backlog after many returned to work to help at the start of the pandemic.
Truss said doctors and nurses “feel like they are being told what to do from Whitehall rather than understanding the situation in their local area and being able to respond to their patients’ needs”.
Earlier today, a 2009 report Ms Truss co-authored came to light, which called for doctors pay to be cut by 10%.
Truss also suggested senior police staff could be removed from their posts if their force performs poorly in her league table.
It is now Truss’s turn for some questions.
The foreign secretary calls for more transparency about the police’s record on fighting crime and having league tables for forces.
“It does help the police be held to account,” she added.


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