Tory leadership race: what did Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss say at Leeds hustings?

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss took part in their first hustings in Leeds as both candidates go head-to-head to become the next Conservative leader

Tory leadership candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are well and truly out on the campaign trail as they took part in their first public hustings.

Held in Leeds, the two wannabe leaders attempted to woo northern Conservative party members who came to them with questions about various topics such as the war in Ukraine, cost of living and levelling up.

But what was said and what did each candidate promise?

What was said about the cost of living and inflation?

Mr Sunak was the first to be questioned in the hustings format.

He began his interview with host, Nick Ferrari, asked about apparent “flip-flopping” after it was revealed that he would scrap VAT on energy bills if they keep rising.

Mr Sunak called the soaring energy bill cost for UK residents as “short-term problem”, adding that plans to tackle the rising cost of living would be temporary once it returns to previous levels.

Ms Truss has remained strong in her stance that the rise in National Insurance was breaking Tory manifesto promises and pledged to reverse this if elected as leader.

She added that although energy companies have made record profits as energy costs soar for consumers, she would not impose a windfall tax as she believes they “put off future investment”.

Although Ms Truss said that she would introduce a moratorium on green levies to reduce bills.

What was said about war in Ukraine?

Mr Ferrari asked Ms Truss if her approach to the Ukraine war would lead to a potential World War III, however Ms Truss claimed that this rhetoric came from Russian propaganda.

Mr Sunak pledged strong sanctions on Russia saying: “We need to find ways to do the sanctions in a more intelligent way, because we’re all paying very high energy prices.

“So we are all paying a price, that is how we are all sacrificing to support Ukraine, and Russia is still able to make money from the energy because, in the short term, the prices are very high and we haven’t been able to completely remove ourselves from it.

“But what we can do, actually, and one of the things I was working on with my colleagues to (smarten) sanctions, is to look at whether we could put in place a price cap.

“So actually, 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.”

What was said about levelling up?

Ms Truss was asked directly about levelling up by an audience member during the hustings,

When asked what she would do to develop places such as Leeds, the Foreign Minister said that she would ensure that the Northern Powerhouse Rail is delivered.

She added that levelling up should be done in the “Conservative way” in areas which “have been left behind, so we level the playing field”.

Ms Truss also said that this would attract business and investment in such areas.

Mr Sunak gave the audience examples of him putting levelling up into action during his time as Chancellor.

He told the audience that he had moved the treasury office to Darlington as a way of serving underserved communities.

Although he said that he would not move the House of Lords away from Westminster as he believes that the houses of parliament con only work properly when working in close proximity.

What was said about education?

Rishi Sunak supported the return of grammar schools, telling host Nick Ferarri: “I believe in educational excellence, I believe education is the most powerful way we can transform people’s lives. But I also think there’s lots we can do with the school system as we have it.

“Now what Michael Gove did several years ago was transformative. And Michael took on some vested interests, challenged consensus, brought in some reforms that mean that millions of our children now are better off.

“But that’s a Conservative way to do it. It’s not about throwing more money at the problem, it’s about reforming the system to get better outcomes. And that’s what I would do with education as well.”

Ms Truss said that the government had made a mistake in closing schoolsduring the Covid-19 lockdown, adding that she found it mind-boggling that the country once found it at a point where pubs were open but schools were closed.

She promised to support children who had been affected from early years, adding later, when questioned about her own education experience, that she