You 'stabbed Boris in the back', Rishi Sunak told at first Tory leadership hustings

Rishi Sunak tory leadership hustings lbc - Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Rishi Sunak tory leadership hustings lbc - Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Rishi Sunak was on Thursday night taken to task at the first official Conservative leadership hustings by a party member who suggested he had "stabbed [Boris Johnson] in the back" by resigning as Chancellor.

Appearing at Elland Road in Leeds in front of an audience of around 1,500 grassroots activists, Mr Sunak was told "many people still support Boris Johnson" and asked "which planet [are] you on?" with regards to uniting the Tories ahead of the next election.

Mr Johnson's former right hand man replied that he was "very grateful to the PM... I gave my everything to that job. I'm proud of my record as Chancellor, delivering for this country delivering for all of you.

"I'm proud of this Government and we achieved many great things. But for me personally it got to a point where I couldn't stay. I had significant difference of opinion with him on how to handle the economic challenges that were ahead of us."

Mr Sunak also insisted he was down but not out and vowed to "fight for every vote" in the wake of polling suggesting he is on track to lose when the Tory faithful cast their votes this month.

10:04 PM

That's all for tonight...

And that concludes another day in this Conservative leadership contest. The first official hustings is now over and done with - but there are three more next week alone in Exeter (Monday), Cardiff (Wednesday) and Sussex (Friday), plus a TV debate for good measure.

Both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss will have reasons to take heart after tonight's speeches, interviews and audience questions from the Tory membership in Leeds.

Liz Truss and Nick Ferrari
Liz Truss and Nick Ferrari

Mr Sunak warmed up nicely and appeared to win round much of the room in the face of tough audience questioning, while Ms Truss displayed a boosterism and energy so many members saw and loved during Boris Johnson's successful 2019 leadership campaign.

My colleague Jack Maidment will be back early tomorrow, bringing you all the latest news, analysis and reaction from Westminster. Until then, have a good night.

09:49 PM

Rishi Sunak has the most credible plan, says Dominic Raab

Rishi Sunak has "the most credible plan" to revive the British economy, Dominic Raab argued during tonight's debate.

The Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister insisted tax cuts for businesses "should be targeted to provide incentives to invest in the economy - to boost growth and productivity".

Rishi Sunak - Charlotte Graham
Rishi Sunak - Charlotte Graham

Mark Jenkinson, a supporter of Liz Truss, suggested Rishi Sunak's difference with Boris Johnson over cutting VAT on energy bills "disappeared post-resignation, it would seem".

09:46 PM

Children need more support than 'largely absent' discussion

Reaction is already streaming in after tonight's first leadership hustings.

Matt Buttery, the chief executive of the Triple P UK parenting intervention scheme, noted family policy "was again largely absent from tonight's hustings" despite spiralling rates of mental health problems in young people.

"Isolating lockdowns and dealing with the uncertainty of the pandemic has had a big impact on children’s social, emotional and academic development," he said.

"Children in the North of England suffered disproportionately, and parents need support now to deal with this crisis. Over the next four weeks I hope we will hear more about how they will be better supported, particularly when it comes to manifesto commitments like family hubs and supporting families - which aim to improve the emotional wellbeing, mental health and social mobility of the next generation."

09:42 PM

Rishi Sunak faces an Andrew Neil interview tomorrow...

...but so far Liz Truss's team have declined to put her up for one.

Veteran broadcaster Mr Neil writes on Twitter: "22 hours til my interview with Rishi Sunak on Channel 4.

"Invitation to Liz Truss still open. But suspect she’s frit and will be a no show. Like Boris Johnson in 2019. Guess she’s the continuity candidate."

09:33 PM

Analysis: Sunak steadied out - but first blood to Truss

It was a shaky start to the first official Conservative hustings for Rishi Sunak who already had it all to do as he hopes to convince the grassroots he is the man for the job.

But Mr Sunak sounded a clear and confident note as he launched a staunch defence of his conservative economic principles, managing to convince significant swathes of the 1,500-strong audience his focus on inflation control over immediate tax cuts was the right one.

For her part, Liz Truss offered little by way of new detail but she was content to play the "greatest hits" of her leadership campaign and channelled Boris Johnson with her mockery of Sir Keir Starmer.

Liz Truss - Charlotte Graham
Liz Truss - Charlotte Graham

She went down better at Elland Road among the party faithful, tallying with what opinion polls have told us so far, and remains out in front - in no small part down to her "straight-talking" approach. On balance, many would conclude 1-0 to Ms Truss from tonight.

But this was only the first of more than a dozen hustings. And with ballots not sent out until later on next week, via the excitement of a televised debate, it's still all to play for.

Who do you think won the debate? Which answers - and questions - stood out? Let us know in the comments section of this live blog.

09:20 PM

Liz Truss: My Cabinet must 'shake up the Treasury'

Asked about the child benfeit threshold, Ms Truss calls to "review the tax system to make sure it's fair for families" and said people who take time off to look after children or elderly relatives are not "penalised" for that.

She insists her future Cabinet colleagues must "shake up the Treasury and deliver across the country".

And asked by an audience member who claims their tax pays for "people to watch daytime TV", she says "older people have a great contribution to make to our society... what we should be doing is helping older people to work if they want to work".

Ms Truss says she wants to see much more "bottom-up, locally-driven housing... I think people work incredibly hard and the people in this room are people who have given up their Thursday night to listen to you and me, Nick, and Rishi, and work incredibly hard for the Conservative Party.

"What we need to do is get off people's backs so they have time to do things to contribute."

09:13 PM

Liz Truss: Brexit not causing Britain's problems

Graham from York says Liz Truss talks a lot about growth but some businesses simply cannot get the staff. What would she do about that?

Ms Truss concedes it has been "difficult" since Covid and promises to "tighten up" incentives in the welfare system to ensure more people take the opportunities to work.

What economy has Brexit had on the labour market? Ms Truss says the United States and Canada have "the same problems because we are all suffering from the global economic shock caused by Covid".

"In Europe they are also struggling to get workers on their farms as well. What we have is a seasonal agricultural workers' scheme... I support that, I think it is important we open up those schemes to bring people to Britain on a temporary basis. But this is not a problem unique to Britain."

09:11 PM

Liz Truss is grilled on her comments about her school

"I didn't say my school was bog-standard," she replies. "It was an average comprehensive at the time. What I'm saying is at that average comprehensive under the auspices of Leeds city council there were too many kids who were able to leave school without the education they needed, the teaching was patchy, we didn't have league tables at the time, we didn't have a national curriculum."

Ms Truss insists it is a "very mixed intake" at Roundhay School and a "good group of pupils". At Oxford University, she says "very talented people" should have been there "rather than some of the people who were actually there".

"What I felt was there were low expectations of some of the people in the school and some of the expectations wereabout where those kids had come from in Leeds. And I thought that was wrong and I still think it's wrong. And what I don't want is kids growing up around this country... [with] low expectations of them because of their background."

09:08 PM

Liz Truss: Under-18s should not be able to make 'irreversible decisions' on gender

One audience member grills Liz Truss on gender-neutral toilets in schools. "I want you to bring in a policy that guarantees our daughters can go to the toilet in a safe environment in any school in this country," she appeals with Ms Truss.

She responds: "I've been very clear that single-sex spaces should be protected, particularly for younger people as well as vulnerable women in domestic violence shelters, for example. I can assure you as prime minister I would direct that to happen.

"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."

What of a pupil who is transitioning? "I do not believe that under-18s should be able to make irreversible decisions about their own bodies that they might come to regret later. Schools should be sensitive, they can provide additional facilities, but it should not be at the expense of young girls."

09:05 PM

On shale and gas extraction

Liz Truss says: "I support fracking in areas where people want it to happen and I do think it can be part of the solution as well as releasing more of the North Sea gas reserves. We also need to do more nuclear power."

09:03 PM

Let's level up in 'a conservative way', says Liz Truss

Liz Truss calls for a greater focus on improving English and maths standards, "and if you get to 11 without those basic skills you aregoing struggle later on in life to get a job".

Moving to audience questions, she is asked about levelling up which she insists she would do in a "conservative way by having low-tax zones... so we level the playing field, but we level the playing field through enterprise, through business and more small enterprise is absolutely crucial to that".

Asked if HS2 was a "killer whale", as Kit Malthouse suggested, she says "that sounds like a pitch by Kit Malthouse for a job in a new Government, isn't it? I was not sure frankly of the case for HS2 but we are where we are, we've signed the contracts, we've spent the money and what we need to do is make sure that we get value from it."

Ms Truss asks of transport projects: "Why do they take so long?" She appeals to use Brexit freedoms to hasten the process, and suggests EU procurement rules had delayed it.

08:55 PM

I wouldn't back Owen Paterson again, says Liz Truss

Last year, she effectively voted to rework parliamentary rules to support Owen Paterson, Ms Truss is reminded.

"I think we all know that it was a mistake for me to vote that way as well as the Government. I wouldn't do it again if I had my time again. What we know is there is a real need to improve discipline in the Conservative Party but also to support the welfare of our MPs.

"It's a tough job being an MP... I want to support our MPs more but I want to make sure that when there is a problem we deal with it early and we deal with it quickly."

She says she would move the Whips' Office back to 12 Downing Street and urges a "restoration of standards, discipline but also support".

08:54 PM

'I don't believe in windfall taxes'

Asked about the cost-of-living crisis, Liz Truss says: "I don’t believe in windfall taxes because they put off future investment. Windfall taxes send the wrong message to the world, they don't send the message that our country is open for business."

What did she learn from her four years at Shell? Ms Truss recalls working in the petrol and liquid natural gas industries: "What I learnt was how important the security of our energy is and how we shouldn't take it for granted. And I think it's very important in the future that we never again become dependent on regimes that we can't trust. We need to learn that lesson for China as well."

08:51 PM

Who's the best all-time Tory leader and why?

"Mrs Thatcher," replies Liz Truss. "She turned our country around. In the 1970s we were the sick man of Europe, we had low growth, we had massive industrial problems.

"She was a tremendous leader, a really world-changing leader and I'm really very proud that she was our prime minister."

08:50 PM

What would she say to the Queen if she reminded her about voting for the abolition of the monarchy?

Liz Truss says "I've met the Queen in the various roles that I've had and she has been far too polite to raise what I have previously said".

Truss - Nigel Roddis/AFP
Truss - Nigel Roddis/AFP

"Almost as soon as I made the speech I regretted it. I was a bit of a teenage controversialist and just within these four walls I was briefly a member of the Liberal Democrats. I did leave it when I was 21, when I came of age and realised the error of their ways."

08:49 PM

Ms Truss's quickfire round

Is Love Island misogynistic?

"I watched it for 10 minutes with my teenage daughter and I was completely horrified and I turned it off."

Should England and Wales go to the World Cup in Qatar later this year?

"We should go to the World Cup... If we insisted that every country we did business with or traded with or went to a football match in, we wouldn't be doing business with many countries, frankly. We've got to be practical, we've got to be pragmatic."

Have you ever used illegal drugs?

"No, I haven't."

08:47 PM

Asked who is the best PM she served under...

Liz Truss says in the 2016 leadership election after the referendum, "I backed Boris first and then I backed Theresa May once Theresa May left the race. I've always been a fan of Boris Johnson, I think he did a fantastic job as prime minister. I was proud to serve as a loyal member of his Cabinet."

Asked about inheritance tax she promises to make the system fairer, and says she does not agree with people who think tax can keep going up "so we have to do things differently".

On the health and social care levy: "It's wrong to renege on a manifesto commitment when we have the money to afford that manifesto commitment. I would only do [this] if there was something that we absolutely had to do for national security reasons or for some massive priority. In the case of the National Insurance commitment we didn't have to make that change and we did and that was wrong."

08:43 PM

Liz Truss is now in the chair with Nick Ferrari

Asked if she would accidentally start World War Three after Russia heightened its nuclear alert level following previous comments she has made, Ms Truss says she takes it "as a badge of pride that I have been sanctioned by the Russian regime... It's completely wrong to listen to any of the sabre rattling and propaganda.

"The reason they're doing that is because Putin's evil plan to take Kyiv in a few days didn't work. I don't believe that listening to Russian propaganda and repeating it helps deliver the Ukrainians victory against Russia.

"If we don't stand up to him now, he will come back for more."

08:39 PM

Could Lord Hague return to advise? 'I'll ask him'

Rishi Sunak says it is "clearly wrong" that some people see benefits as a "way of life" and redoubles his commitment to double the threshold.

Asked if he would welcome Lord Hague back into the political fold, he says "I'll ask him".

08:34 PM

You 'stabbed Boris in the back' - what planet are you on?, Rishi Sunak asked

Matthew, an audience member, says: "Rishi Sunak, you're a good salesman and you have many strong attributes but many people continue to support Boris Johnson who has delivered consistently through treacherous waters. Many people unfortunately think that you've stabbed him in the back. Some people don't want to see that in No 10.

"I'm not quite sure which planet you're on... How do you expect to take the party through the next election?"

Mr Sunak insists he is "very grateful to the PM... I gave my everything to that job. I'm proud of my record as Chancellor, delivering for this country delivering for all of you. I'm proud of this Government and we achieved many great things. But for me personally it got to a point where I couldn't stay. I had significant difference of opinion with him on how to handle the economic challenges that were ahead of us.

"And with a situation like that there was absolutely no way I could stay. I was left with no choice but to resign and I'm sad that I had to but that was the right thing to do and that was me acting on my principles."

Mr Sunak says he "resigned because the prime minister and the chancellor cannot be at a different place when it comes to economic policy".

08:32 PM

'Would you do all you could to support Ukraine?'

"Johnson supported Ukraine right from the front and he led this country," Rishi Sunak is told. "Would you do all you can to support Ukraine so we defeat Putin?"

He responds: "The quick answer is absolutely yes. And I made sure we got the funding to provide Ukraine with the arms we need to support Putin... [and] to put together a sanctions package the likes of which we've never seen before."

Rishi Sunak - Peter Powell/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Rishi Sunak - Peter Powell/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

What would he say to Putin face-to-face? "At this point there's not much to be said. What we need to do is put Ukraine in the strongest possible position.

"I think we need action not words at this point and that's the toughest possible sanctions to make life as difficult for him as possible and the strongest possible support for Ukraine so they can defend and push back... We need to find a way to do sanctions in a more intelligent way. We are all paying the price, that is how we're sacrificing to support Ukraine, and Russia is still able to make money from the energy."

08:29 PM

How will Rishi Sunak deliver net zero and levelling up?

Mr Sunak says he would "completely disagree" with an audience member's suggestion levelling up has been forgotten as part of the current contest. He cites freeports in Teesside and moving the Treasury to Darlington.

Would he support relocating the Lords? "I don't think it makes sense for the practical operation of Government for us to be separated."

08:27 PM

Sunak: 'We're under real risk' from Scottish nationalism

How would Rishi Sunak keep Scotland in the UK, Rishi Sunak is asked. "We're under real risk. The best things that we can do are be firm with Nicola Sturgeon about another referendum, we need to make sure in Government and in Whitehall we don't just devolve and forget... We as UK Government ministers have to be more active in Scotland.

"My grandparents didn't emigrate here because it was England. They emigrated because it was the United Kingdom and it is a set of values and those values are precious."

He rejects the suggestion Boris Johnson has done damage to the union and instead says he "deserves credit".

08:23 PM

'We must have a system of control for our borders'

Teresa asks Mr Sunak how he will control illegal immigration and "a Border Force that doesn't want to turn boats around".

He replies: "That is one of the things I want to grip as quickly as possible. There's a video that I put out that explains a very detailed 10-point plan on how we need to do it. What we need to do is change the definition of what counts as asylum, we should move away from the very expansive ECHR definition... to ensure we can remove people when we want to."

Mr Sunak stressed the need for other countries to "take back failed asylum seekers" which is "not happening country" in exchange for preferential trade arrangements. "Something is not working in the system and I will get a grip of that. We must have a system of control for our borders."

He declines to say how many people would be sent to Rwanda on his watch but vows to "build [the policy] up over time".

08:21 PM

Has greyhound racing gone to the dogs?

Rishi Sunak is asked by Laura in the audience: "Will you outright ban greyhound racing or at least consider the ban considering it is a violent and abusive sport?" He says it is not something he has looked into, and is "happy to look at all our laws" on animal welfare.

Mr Sunak is also asked about keeping small business relief and if he would consider continuing it. He says the audience member is "totally right" and ensured a 50 per cent business rate discount this year for retail and hospitality "because they're the beating heart of all our high streets".

08:17 PM

It's not about what suit I wear, says Sunak

On high levels of furlough fraud, Mr Sunak says Nick Ferrari's figures are "completely wrong... it looks like it's even lower than the normal rate of fraud".

Rishi Sunak - Henry Nicholls/Reuters
Rishi Sunak - Henry Nicholls/Reuters

It is not about "what shoes I wear or what suit I'm wearing, it's about what I'm going to do to the country", Mr Sunak vows - to a huge round of applause.

He gets more applause for his defence of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

On what he would say to Ben Wallace to appeal for his backing, he flags his support for defence spending with the largest budgetary uplift since the Cold War. He declines to match Liz Truss's three per cent commitment: "I'm not going to set arbitrary targets. I'm not going to sit here and get into an auction of more tax cuts."

08:13 PM

Boris Johnson wouldn't serve in my Cabinet, confirms Rishi Sunak

Nick Ferrari cites President Zelensky's comments that he doesn't want Boris Johnson to "disappear" from politics.

Asked what his role would be, Rishi Sunak says he is "obviously someone who has enormous talents and I'm sure he will continue to make a contribution to public life". He declines to say if he would take him on as an envoy to Ukraine and stresses the need to "move forward". He reaffirms he would not offer him a Cabinet job.

On the petition for Mr Johnson to be back on the ballot, he says he was "unable to command the confidence" of his MPs.

What is to be done on energy? Mr Sunak flags the support he has already introduced, "particularly targeted on the most vulnerable... and cutting VAT on fuel will put extra money in people's pockets".

08:11 PM

How would Sunak deal with strikers?

Mr Sunak says "in the same way" as Liz Truss - who has vowed a minimum level of service for critical industries such as the railways, noting it was a 2019 manifesto commitment.

08:11 PM

Rishi Sunak's quickfire round

Would you bring back grammar schools?

Yes, as you heard from me earlier I believe in educational excellence. I believe education is the most powerful way to transform people's lives. But I also believe there's a lot we can do in the school system as it is. It's about reforming the system to get better grammars.

Should water firm executives who pollute to unsafe levels go to jail?

I'm not going to give you a yes or no answer to making a criminal offence in the middle of a leadership offence... I don't know enough to know that is the right course of action.

08:08 PM

Rishi Sunak: Thatcher would have backed my corporation tax rise

Rishi Sunak says the conversation about tax has been "very narrow... and actually in a 21st century economy there are many other things we need to get right".

Asked who the best ever Conservative leader is, Mr Sunak says "Margaret Thatcher - she delivered multiple election victories and changed this country for the better".

On how Lady Thatcher would have responded to his planned corporation tax rise, he insists: "She would have responded as I have done by gripping inflation first. Even though it was difficult she understood you had to get a grip of inflation first and get a grip of public spending and borrowing. That was very much her mantra."

On a very low corporation tax rate, he says: "We tried it for a decade, and it didn't work. The question for them is why is that going to drive growth - because we've tried it for a decade and it hasn't worked, because businesses haven't invested back in our economy. We need businesses to invest more." Support from the room via a round of applause.

08:06 PM

Rishi Sunak: My 'temporary' tax cut plans differ from Liz Truss's

Nick Ferrari asks if Rishi Sunak he is "flipping and flopping" after his energy U-turn.

"We've got a short-term problem with energy bills, and I've always said as chancellor we need to make sure the support we put in place is appropriate for the scale of the challenges which we're facing now," Mr Sunak insists.

"That is a temporary and time-limited support to help people over the winter. What's unconservative is permanent, unfunded tax cuts. There's a big difference between things that are temporary to fix a short-term problem and permanently borrowing £40bn, £50bn every year."

Asked about low UK growth, high streets closing and the pound shrinking, Mr Sunak accuses Mr Ferrari of singling out "one year" of economic forecasts. "We had a faster recovery than other countries out of Covid... and unsurprisingly they're catching up."

08:03 PM

More than a third of voters blame Rishi Sunak for cost of living crisis and inflation

Over a third of voters believe Rishi Sunak is responsible for the cost of living crisis and rising inflation, Tony Diver, our Whitehall Correspondent, can reveal.

The poll found that 37 per cent of Britons think the former chancellor is directly to blame for the rising cost of goods and services, with more than 70 per cent saying the cost of living is the most important political issue to them.

The research, commissioned by the More in Common think tank and carried out by Public First, found 29 per cent do not think Mr Sunak, the Tory leadership contender, is responsible for the soaring cost of living and inflation.

​Read the full story here

08:01 PM

With round one done, Liz Truss gains the upper hand

It is safe to say Liz Truss has the upper hand over Rishi Sunak at this point in the hustings.

Her jokes - and references to local legends including Don Revie - undoubtedly landed better than Mr Sunak's punchlines.

Liz Truss tory leadership - Nigel Roddis/AFP
Liz Truss tory leadership - Nigel Roddis/AFP

And on the serious side of things, Ms Truss won herself three rounds of applause during her speech - for her comments on Ukraine, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the transgender debate as she said "a woman is a woman" - whereas Mr Sunak only received a muted, polite reception at the start and the end of his remarks.

Of course, both candidates are yet to be grilled by Nick Ferrari, the LBC presenter and an indefatigable interviewer, and our audience of Conservative members.

07:49 PM

'I'm going to campaign as a Conservative and I will govern as a Conservative'

"We have a straight talking audience of Yorkshire folk who know that a woman is a woman," Ms Truss says - getting her third round of applause of the evening, after a second over her Ukraine pledge.

"Finally my friends we need to be proud of who we are. We need to be proud to be Conservatives. I'm going to campaign as a Conservative and I will govern as a Conservative."

2019 voters "didn't vote for us because they wanted Labour policies... they voted for us because they wanted opportunity, because they aspire to better things, because they wanted enterprise in their area. And that is what I as prime minister would be determined to deliver.

"We need to win and we will win against Keir Starmer, who is a patronising plastic patriot. If you elect me I will work my socks off in No 10 to deliver all the promises we made in 2019 and deliver a victory for the Conservatives in 2024."

07:46 PM

Liz Truss: Now is not the time for business as usual

Liz Truss tells the audience: "What I think I got from Yorkshire is grit, determination and straight-talking and that, my friends, is what I think we need now in Downing Street. Because the fact is we face a huge global economic crisis. We have the worst war that has taken place on European shores taking place in Ukraine.

"Now is not the time for business as usual. Now is not the time for the status quo. We need to be bold and we need to do things differently... first of all reversing the increases in National Insurance that we promised not to do in our manifesto."

She promises new low-tax investment zones, enabling businesses to start up "in areas that have been left behind" and to abolish "the top down Soviet housing targets we have across our country". She gets the first big laugh of the night as she says her time on a planning committee was "hours of my life I will never get back".

Ms Truss asks why transport in the North should be so bad and pledges to get Northern Powerhouse Rail built. Here we have our first mid-speech applause of the evening.

07:43 PM

Truss 'passionate about bearing down on waste'

James Cleverly is now introducing Liz Truss, writes Nick Gutteridge, our Political Correspondent who is there in Leeds.

He says she is "passionate about bearing down on big and wasteful government" and adds that "I have seen her make the most of the opportunities that Brexit had delivered" and "push for less red tape and lower taxes" in the Cabinet.

07:37 PM

Rishi Sunak: 2024 election win will be a challenge

In just a couple of years time, the Conservatives have to win an historic fifth election, Rishi Sunak urges. "That is going to be a challenge," he admits.

"But I know we can do it together. But in order to do it we are going to have to appeal to swing voters in every part of our country, north and south, remain and leave, urban and rural, Scotland and Wales. And I believe with all my heart that I am the person, I am the candidate that gives our party the best opportunity to secure that victory and ensure that the Labour Party and Keir Starmer never walk through the doors of Downing Street."

He concludes: "I know the polls say I'm behind in this race. I know there are people who say there should be a coronation, not a contest. But I heard that once before seven years ago, when I arrived in Richmond, North Yorkshire, and ultimately the members there gave me the greatest honour of my life when they selected me to be their candidate to be their Member of Parliament.

"Today, I'm asking for all of your support. And I promise you I am gonna fight for every single vote. I am gonna fight for the Conservative values that are core to who I am and what I stand for, and I am going to fight hard for the argument that we should not mortgage our children and our grandchildren's future to make our lives easier today. I will work my utmost to make each and every one of you enormously proud."

07:34 PM

Inflation the 'enemy that makes everyone poorer'

"For far too long we have watched on our TV screens people coming here illegally," Rishi Sunak says, insisting Britain must have control of its borders.

He considers inflation the "number one challenge" facing Britain and says it is the "enemy that makes everyone poorer".

"What I won't do is embark on a spree borrowing tens and tens of billions of pounds of unfunded promises and put them on the country's credit card and pass them on to our children and our grandchildren to pick up the tab. That's not right, that's not responsible, and that's certainly not Conservative."

Mr Sunak vows to deliver tax cuts for businesses and individuals - but emphasises this will only happen once inflation is under.

07:31 PM

I haven't taken the easy road, says Rishi Sunak

Mr Sunak says his values are "patriotism, service, family, hard work, aspiration... my story is a Conservative story and that's why I want to be prime minister".

"This country allowed my family to provide me with a better future and fantastic opportunities and that's what I want to do for everyone, your children and grandchildren.

"And if you support me, I know we can build a better Britain... a Britain where we have enormous pride in our history and enormous confidence in our future."

But in the interim, he warns of "immediate challenges facing us today" - restoring trust, rebuilding the economy, and reuniting Britain. He says the first thing to do to restore trust is "to be honest... I haven't taken the easy road. There are plenty of things I could have said to make my life easy but I wanted to be honest about the challenges our country faces and what is going to be required to fix them... It is the honest thing to do."

07:28 PM

Rishi Sunak: I'm having the time of my life

Rishi Sunak says he has been "having the time of my life" in the past couple of weeks on the campaign trail: "The sun has been shining, so much so that someone said to me the other day 'wow, you've got a great tan.'"

He tells the hustings: "This country did something absolutely incredible for my family, they welcomed them as immigrants 60 years ago and allowed them to build a better life."

Mr Sunak says the first of the values he was brought up with was "family means everything to me - the bonds of sacrifice, love and commitment that family brings are far greater than anything any Government could ever replicate, and we should never forget that".

"My family also believed in hard work as the way to get ahead."

07:23 PM

David Davis is currently on stage in Leeds

Mr Davis, the former Brexit secretary, has confirmed he is backing Rishi Sunak in this final, head-to-head stage of the contest.

07:20 PM

Let us know your thoughts

Once the debate is underway - it will be airing live on LBC, on radio and online, plus on the Conservative Party's website - please do let us know what you think in the comments section of this live blog.

And afterwards, we'll be keen to get your take on whether Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss came off better from tonight.

07:16 PM

Liz Truss put in the picture

LBC is currently taking calls from listeners about what they want from the debate before going live to Leeds.

While we wait - here is Ms Truss pictured on her arrival as she was pulled for a selfie:

Liz Truss Rishi Sunak - Henry Nicholls/Getty Images
Liz Truss Rishi Sunak - Henry Nicholls/Getty Images

07:11 PM

What's at stake tonight?

There is plenty at stake for both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss going into tonight's hustings.

Ms Truss, the Foreign Secretary, has proven more well-liked among the members to date, with all the polling suggesting she is on her way to Downing Street.

But the pressure will be on to retain this advantage, and capitalise on her more recent sparky performances in televised debates after a more wooden showing in the first outing.

Mr Sunak, who was chancellor for most of Boris Johnson's premiership, has it all to do by comparison. He has already come under fire over the tax rises he oversaw in office.

His about-turn on tax could mark a sea change as his confidence grows during the campaign - and he was politically written off as recently as April. But it is still Mr Sunak who must make up ground, and Ms Truss with more to lose, going into tonight's debate.

07:06 PM

We will bring you updates as soon as it gets underway

There are still a few minutes to go until things get started between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss - but we will bring you live updates as soon as the debate itself is going.

This will be one of the most interesting debates of the campaign to date, being the first time we hear questions from true blue Conservative Party members as opposed to studio audiences made up of 2019 Tory backers or floating voters.

06:59 PM

​Tories stick to the Status Quo

There appears to be a 1970s rock enthusiast at the helm of the Conservative Party's own livestream of the hustings.

ACDC's Back in Black has now been followed by Status Quo's Whatever You Want while we wait for Mr Sunak and Ms Truss.

06:55 PM

Five minutes to go...

We will have you covered with all of the latest updates and analysis as the two-hour hustings session takes shape.

Here's the scene from Elland Road:

Elland Road - Henry Nicholls/Reuters
Elland Road - Henry Nicholls/Reuters
Rishi Sunak Liz Truss leadership - Henry Nicholls/Reuters
Rishi Sunak Liz Truss leadership - Henry Nicholls/Reuters

06:43 PM

Tory councillor takes sideswipe at Liz Truss

As referred to in an earlier post (see 6.14pm), Liz Truss has said of her secondary education Roundhay School in Leeds that pupils were let down by "low expectations, poor educational standards and a lack of opportunity".

But not everyone who went there feels the same - Nathan Hull, a Tory councillor on North Yorkshire County Council, was in the year below Ms Truss and has attacked her remarks about what it had to offer.

"It was a fantastic school, my parents sent seven children there, every single child came out with a degree," he told ITV News. "I have a different recollection to the school that she describes. It was a friendly place, first-class education, brilliant teachers, facilities are fantastic, and everybody there was pretty pleased with the education she got.

"I don't feel that the children were let down by the school. I think you have to be honest, and I didn't think that that was... maybe it was her opinion but it's not one that I honestly share. And I don't believe in kind of stepping and treading all over your past and the people who helped you get where you are for political gain. I just don't appreciate the sentiments and I don't agree with it."

06:33 PM

'Confident' and 'charming' - versus 'modest' and 'in touch'

New polling from Redfield and Wilton Strategies this evening has some fascinating insights about how both of the leadership hopefuls are perceived by the public.

Rishi Sunak won out among the public when they were asked who comes across as more "confident" (42 per cent to 23 per cent), "charming" (37 to 19) and "interesting" (35 to 27).

However Liz Truss is considered to be more "in touch with normal people" (35 per cent to 22 per cent, "genuine" (35 to 22) and "modest" (37 to 24).

06:24 PM

Liz Truss wins backing of Northern Research Group chairman

Liz Truss's levelling up credentials have been boosted by the endorsement of Jake Berry, the Tory MP for Rossendale and Darwen and chairman of the Northern Research Group of backbenchers.

Mr Berry had written to all Conservative leadership candidates urging them to adopt a series of specific pledges aimed at bolstering the North.

"She's the person with energy to bring action and delivery to make sure that we level up our United Kingdom," he said of Ms Truss.

"I've met a lot with Liz and we've spent time talking about how we transform people's lives, not just in this great city of Leeds but across the north of England. That's why I'm proud to be backing Liz Truss to be our next prime minister."

06:14 PM

Liz Truss in arrives Leeds - with her mum in tow

Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, has arrived with her mother Patricia ahead of tonight's hustings at the Elland Road football stadium in Leeds:

Liz and Patricia Truss - Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Liz and Patricia Truss - Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Liz Truss - Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Liz Truss - Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Ms Truss lived in Leeds while growing up and attended Roundhay School in the affluent suburb of the city. She claimed earlier this month its pupils were let down by "low expectations, poor educational standards and a lack of opportunity".

05:57 PM

Check the latest Tory leadership odds with our live tracker

Rishi Sunak seems to have it all to do in the race to be the next prime minister with Liz Truss pulling ahead among Tory members and bookmakers.

The former Chancellor will be looking to make some serious headway when the pair battle it out at a hustings event in Leeds on Thursday night.

It comes after they faced off in their  second head-to-head TV debate  on Tuesday night, clashing on tax and discussing the NHS at length.

Check the latest odds here

05:46 PM

Tory MP: We still need 'minimum standards' to combat online harms

Damian Collins, the minister responsible for the Online Safety Bill, has doubled down in his defence of the controversial legislation.

"It is entirely engagement-based, which is why these social media companies gather so much data about their users because they want to feed them the content that will keep them engaged and keep them online," he told the Spectator's Coffee House Shots podcast. "And they should be held responsible for those decisions.

"What the Online Safety Bill is looking to do is take existing offences in law and apply them online. For some of those offences you don’t need very much interpretation, but there are other offences.

"[But] I think we do need to set these minimum standards, otherwise the sort of abuse and dehumanising speech that’s become common on many social media platforms will get a lot worse and I think we have to intervene there."

05:28 PM

Labour’s Jess Phillips: ‘I was so proud to hear my child swear’

Labour MP Jess Phillips has revealed that her proudest moment was hearing her toddler son swear, writes Benny Torre.

Speaking with the British comedian Marcus Brigstocke this month on her podcast,the Labour frontbencher said: "I've never felt prouder than when my son once said [a swear world] when I was watching Escape to the Chateau.

"He said, 'the only good thing about this programme is it's got the word s--- in the title'. And my younger one then went, 'you want to watch Escape to the Country!'

"I was like, 'oh my god, you two are going to be all right – I think you're going to be fine in the world, you're going to be ok'."

05:01 PM

The death knell for Rishi Sunak's campaign?

Perhaps it was inevitable that Rishi Sunak would u-turn on tax cuts, writes Henry Hill.

The second round of the Conservative leadership contest is well underway, and Liz Truss shows little sign so far of losing her lead. Maybe this will be seen as the moment things started to turn around.

There are still weeks of campaigning to go; the reaction of the Foreign Secretary’s supporters to CCHQ’s decision to let people re-cast their ballots suggests they think her losing her early lead is a real possibility.

But I have a nagging suspicion it may end up marking the beginning of the end for Sunak’s campaign.

04:50 PM

The moment Johnson mocks Sunak over U-turn

Boris Johnson acknowledged he was leaving office sooner than he wanted in a speech to business leaders in Birmingham earlier today.

But amid wisecracks about the "great relay race of politics", he could not resist taking a swipe at Rishi Sunak over his former chancellor's high-profile change of heart:

04:40 PM

Tavistock closure: Kemi Badenoch laments 'destroyed childhoods'

Kemi Badenoch this afternoon welcomed NHS England's decision to shut the Tavistock transgender clinic after a review found it was "not safe" for children.

The former minister, who proved popular with the grassroots during her Tory leadership campaign, wrote on Twitter there was "lots I can say now I'm no longer equalities minister".

Kemi Badenoch - Eddie Mulholland
Kemi Badenoch - Eddie Mulholland

Ms Badenoch said she heard personal testimonies of "destroyed childhoods, protecting whistleblowing clinicians from endless harassment by Twitter activists, the battles to get the review going, the smearing of women who had serious concerns as 'terfs' and 'bigots'".

She went on to claim that some MPs "allow policymaking to be subverted by groups [such as] Stonewall in exchange for retweets". When she was still in the leadership race, she clashed with Penny Mordaunt, the trade minister, over their records on trans issues.

04:34 PM

Rishi Sunak 'has the edge' over Liz Truss with swing voters

Rishi Sunak has the edge over Liz Truss with swing voters but both are unpopular with the public overall, a new YouGov poll shows.

Ms Truss is currently favourite to win the Conservative leadership contest and become the next prime minister due to her popularity with grassroots activists.

However, Mr Sunak leads her among 2019 Tory voters who do not know how they will vote at the next election, as well as those who currently intend to vote for Labour.

Among Conservative voters at the last election who are currently undecided, Mr Sunak has a favourability score of minus 12 per cent and has a narrower lead over Ms Truss, who is on minus 16 per cent.

Read the full story here

04:17 PM

Leeds Tory hustings: What's in store tonight?

Nick Ferrari, who regularly attracts more than a million weekly listeners as the host of LBC's three-hour breakfast show, will be chairing proceedings tonight.

The event is sold out, although it is being streamed live on air between 7pm and 9pm.

So far this week Mr Sunak and Ms Truss have taken part in two televised head-to-head debates with audiences made up of 2019 Conservative voters in the BBC audience and a mix of Tory voters and swing voters in the TalkTV/Sun debate.

But this will be the first time Conservative party members will make up the entire audience - providing a bellwether as to the mood of the grassroots, a group that all the polling to date has indicated favours the Foreign Secretary over the former chancellor.

04:04 PM

Good afternoon

Dominic Penna here, the Telegraph's political reporter signing on to guide you through the rest of today.

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak take part in the first official Conservative leadership hustings event in Leeds, which has been organised by LBC. It is sold out and 1,500 members of the Conservative Party will be in attendance.

Mr Sunak told the radio station he was looking forward to talking to members "about my plans to grip inflation and the cost of living, realise all the benefits of Brexit and defeat Keir Starmer's Labour at the next election - I can't wait!"

In a video message of her own, Ms Truss said she would talk about "levelling up in a Conservative way, cutting taxes to drive economic growth and governing in a Conservative way to deliver for all of the people of Britain".

03:35 PM

Minister warns against borrowing to fund energy bill help

The Government cannot borrow large amounts of money to help take the sting out of rising energy bills because doing so would stoke inflation and that could lead to soaring interest rates and people losing their homes, a Cabinet minister has argued.

George Eustice, the Environment Secretary and a supporter of Rishi Sunak, was asked on Sky News about the former chancellor's plan to help people with their energy bills.

Mr Eustice said: “The problem with borrowing huge amounts of money to pay people’s energy bills is you really risk fuelling the inflationary pressure that we are already seeing.

“We have got to get inflation back under control because if we don’t get it back under control, then interest rates will rise, people’s mortgage rates will go up, and we risk a housing crisis."

03:26 PM

Rishi Sunak 'doesn’t put off difficult decisions'

Rishi Sunak is “what our country needs as we try to chart our way out of these difficult times”, George Eustice has said.

The Environment Secretary and a supporter of Mr Sunak told Sky News: “I think Rishi Sunak in the last two years has really demonstrated that he is the best person to be prime minister.

“I’ve worked with him around the Cabinet table for over two years. He’s always shown very good judgement. He makes considered decisions, but he’s also decisive and doesn’t put off difficult decisions. And I think that’s what our country needs as we try to chart our way out of these difficult times."

03:13 PM

How Liz Truss snapped up the finest minds in wonkland

Liz Truss has used her knowledge of the world of Right-wing think tanks to plunder the best of Westminster wonkland to help run her campaign.

The Foreign Secretary knows the value of policy advice, having helped to play a role in the development of the centre-Right think tank Reform.

Ms Truss has ensured that a grounding in some of Westminster’s best-known think tanks runs like a golden thread through her top team.

You can read the full story on Team Truss here.

02:53 PM

The plan for tonight's Tory hustings event

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss will face off in Leeds this evening as they take part in the first of 12 official Conservative Party hustings events.

The hustings are only open to Tory members and this evening's showdown will get underway at 7pm, lasting for two hours.

This evening's edition will be hosted by LBC Radio presenter Nick Ferrari.

After tonight, there will be events held over the next four weeks in: Exeter, Cardiff, Eastbourne, Darlington, Cheltenham, Perth, Belfast, Manchester, Birmingham, Norwich and London.

02:36 PM

'My advice to Keir Starmer: Tell us how you would fix Broken Britain'

Christopher Hope, The Telegraph's Associate Editor, has set out what he believes Sir Keir Starmer should do to gain an advantage over the next Tory leader.

In short: Focus on finding "bread-and-butter solutions" to the problems which are causing the British economy to stall. He writes:

Sir Keir Starmer, who made a well-received speech about growth in Liverpool on Monday – is making an attempt to focus more on Labour’s positive offer than bleating on about Tory failings.

But there is perhaps an even better strategy than that: should he not work on simple, practical, bread-and-butter solutions to make Britain work better for taxpayers, to present himself as the new management needed to replace ministers who looked increasingly clapped out and exhausted?

A wise opposition team would look at public services from the end user backwards to understand how bad they are.

You can read the piece in full here and you can sign up to Chopper's Politics Newsletter here.

02:18 PM

Truss viewed as more in touch than Sunak

Liz Truss is viewed as being significantly more in touch with normal people than Rishi Sunak, according to a new Redfield & Wilton Strategies poll for The Telegraph.

Some 35 per cent of people picked Ms Truss when they were asked who comes across as being more in touch.

Just 22 per cent picked Mr Sunalk while 43 per cent said they did not know.

02:10 PM

Rishi Sunak viewed as more confident than Liz Truss

Voters believe Rishi Sunak comes across as being more confident than Liz Truss.

A Redfield & Wilton Strategies poll for The Telegraph found that 42 per cent of people believe Mr Sunak is more confident than Ms Truss, while 23 per cent picked the Foreign Secretary.

02:05 PM

Sunak and Truss equally trusted to manage economy

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are equally trusted by the public to manage the economy, a new poll has found.

A Redfield & Wilton Strategies survey for The Telegraph asked voters which of the candidates they would trust more on a variety of different issues.

On managing the economy, both were backed by 31 per cent of respondents while 27 per cent of people said they would trust neither of them on the issue.

Ms Truss was trusted more than Mr Sunak to handle immigration, 31 per cent to 20 per cent.

But Mr Sunak was trusted more than Ms Truss on supporting the NHS, 25 per cent to 22 per cent.

01:55 PM

Voters pick Sir Keir Starmer over Truss and Sunak as best PM

Voters believe Sir Keir Starmer would be a better prime minister than both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, a new poll has suggested as both Tory leadership contenders suffered a setback.

An exclusive survey conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies for The Telegraph put Sir Keir against the two Tory candidates and asked people who would be the better PM.

Against Mr Sunak, some 39 per cent picked Sir Keir and 32 per cent picked the former chancellor while 30 per cent said they did not know.

Against Ms Truss, some 34 per cent picked Sir Keir and 33 per cent picked the Foreign Secretary while 33 per cent said they did not know.

The numbers also suggested that Mr Sunak could lose more support to Labour than Ms Truss would as Tory leader.

Among 2019 Tory voters, some 54 per cent said Mr Sunak would be the better PM while 22 per cent said it would be Sir Keir.

But 62 per cent of 2019 Tory voters said Ms Truss would be the better PM compared to 13 per cent who picked Sir Keir.

01:16 PM

Liz Truss commits to £43bn high-speed railway through Red Wall

Liz Truss has committed to spend another £26bn to build a high-speed railway through Red Wall seats.

The Conservative leadership candidate said she would build Northern Powerhouse Rail in full, marking a major climbdown on Boris Johnson’s piecemeal programme of upgrades.

Northern Powerhouse Rail, dubbed “HS3”, is a £43bn railway running from Liverpool to Hull, stretching down as far as Toton, East Midlands and Leeds in the north.

You can read the full story here.

01:02 PM

'We take each case as it comes'

Sir Keir Starmer said Labour is taking “each case as it comes” on shadow ministers joining picket lines.

The Labour leader was asked if it would be allowed for a shadow minister to appear on a picket line during the strikes planned on Saturday if they did not make any unauthorised media appearances.

Speaking in Birmingham, Sir Keir said: “We take each case as it comes. I want to see these issues resolved.

“And my criticism is really of the Government because it’s inevitable, I think, when you’ve got a cost-of-living crisis, that so many working people are concerned about their wages. I understand that, I understand the concerns.”

12:50 PM

Unite and Labour have 'very strong relationship'

The sacking of Sam Tarry from his role as shadow transport minister has placed a strain on the historical relationship between the Labour Party and trade unions.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said yesterday that the sacking was "another insult to the trade union movement".

But Sir Keir Starmer today insisted that the relationship between Unite and Labour will be “the future” of the party.

Asked if he is worried about the prospect of Unite withdrawing funding from the Labour Party, Sir Keir told reporters in Birmingham: “The Unite union and the Labour Party have a very strong relationship. I am a member of the Unite union. That relationship is historic, it is present, and it will be the future of the Labour Party."

12:34 PM

Starmer: Sacking Sam Tarry 'relatively straightforward'

Sir Keir Starmer has said the sacking of Sam Tarry from his Labour frontbench role was "relatively straightforward".

The Labour leader said: “Sam Tarry was sacked because he booked himself onto media programmes without permission and then made up policy on the hoof and that can’t be tolerated in any organisation because we have got collective responsibility so that was relatively straightforward.

“Of course so far as the industrial action is concerned, I completely understand the frustration of so many working people who have seen the prices go up, seen inflation through the roof and their wages haven’t gone up.

“The Labour Party will always be on the side of working people but we need collective responsibility as any organisation does.”

12:22 PM

PM takes swipe at Rishi Sunak

Boris Johnson has taken a thinly-veiled swipe at his former chancellor Rishi Sunak for announcing he would temporarily cut VAT on energy bills if he becomes PM.

Mr Johnson told the Commonwealth Business Forum in Birmingham: “We come now to the next stage in the great relay race of politics. I didn’t think it was meant to be a relay race, by the way, when I started.

“I can assure you that the baton is going to be passed seamlessly and invisibly to the hand of somebody else.”

He added: “I’ll give you this assurance, they will continue with the same programme, cutting taxes, simplifying regulation as much as possible, taking advantage of all our new regulatory freedoms, getting rid of every encumbrance from solvency to MiFID to VAT on fuel – turns out to be easier than we thought.”

When Mr Sunak was chancellor he had argued against scrapping VAT on energy bills but he is now in favour of the move.

12:10 PM

PM: UK is facing 'tough times'

Boris Johnson has suggested the UK is facing "tough times" because of the cost-of-living crisis and the best way out of the current situation is to "create good jobs".

Addressing the Commonwealth Business Forum in Birmingham, the Prime Minister said: “The best way to get through tough times is to continue to create good jobs for people everywhere in this country, and that’s what this Government is doing with the lowest level of unemployment for almost half a century, and that’s what this Government will continue to do under all circumstances.”

12:03 PM

'Sometimes you’ve got to go through periods of difficulty'

Boris Johnson has said the cost-of-living crisis is an “inevitable” period of difficulty that the country has to “get through”.

Speaking at the Commonwealth Business Forum in Birmingham, the outgoing Prime Minister said: “I know that the pressures people are facing on their cost of living and the global inflation problems that we’re seeing, the energy squeeze, the cost of gas, every country around the world is feeling it.

Boris Johnson is pictured addressing the Commonwealth Business Forum in Birmingham today - Peter Byrne /PA
Boris Johnson is pictured addressing the Commonwealth Business Forum in Birmingham today - Peter Byrne /PA

“But my argument to you would be that sometimes you’ve got to go through periods of difficulty and you’ve got to remember that they are just inevitable.

“Every athlete – to pick a metaphor entirely at random – every athlete knows that you have to go through times of real strain and real sacrifice when you sometimes feel it’s not worth it if you’re going to be ready to win.

“And by the same token we in this country have to get through these difficult times, but we have to keep investing and getting ready.

11:57 AM

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss more unpopular than Sir Keir Starmer

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are both more unpopular with voters than Sir Keir Starmer, according to a new poll conducted by YouGov.

The survey of almost 5,000 people gave Mr Sunak a net favourability score of minus 30 and Ms Truss a score of minus 32.

They are less unpopular than Boris Johnson who scored minus 45 but they are more unpopular than Sir Keir who recorded a score of minus 18.

Net favourability scores are calculated by taking the percentage of people who say they have a favourable opinion of someone and then substracting the percentage who say they have an unfavourable opinion of that person.

11:46 AM

Pictured: Boris Johnson addresses Commonwealth Business Forum

Boris Johnson is pictured addressing the Commonwealth Business Forum at the ICC in Birmingham this morning  - Peter Byrne/PA
Boris Johnson is pictured addressing the Commonwealth Business Forum at the ICC in Birmingham this morning - Peter Byrne/PA

11:13 AM

Liz Truss would not restore Leeds leg of HS2

In November last year the Government announced it was scrapping plans for the Leeds leg of the HS2 high-speed railway line.

Liz Truss today made clear that she would not restore the leg if she wins the Tory leadership contest against Rishi Sunak.

She told reporters in Leeds: “What I’m committing to today is Northern Powerhouse Rail. I grew up in Leeds, I know how poor the local transport is.

Liz Truss is pictured today during a visit to a broadband interchange company in Leeds - Reuters 
Liz Truss is pictured today during a visit to a broadband interchange company in Leeds - Reuters

“What people need is good routes to commute into work. That is where there is a real issue for people getting into work around West Yorkshire.”

She added: “I’m not going to commit to restoring that leg of HS2 (to Leeds).”

10:57 AM

'Our relationship is not going to change'

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are both "impressive public servants", the new US Ambassador to the UK has said.

Jane Hartley said the strength of the "Special Relationship" will "remain the same" regardless of which candidate wins the Tory leadership race.

Speaking to Times Radio, Ms Hartley said: "I had fantastic meetings with both your [former] chancellor and the Foreign Secretary.

"They were both impressive, impressive human beings, impressive public servants. And my message back to Washington is our relationship is not going to change, no matter who is elected. The strength of our relationship with both of these candidates will remain the same."

Jane Hartley, the new US Ambassador to the UK, is pictured meeting Rishi Sunak in No 11 Downing Street on June 9 - HM Treasury
Jane Hartley, the new US Ambassador to the UK, is pictured meeting Rishi Sunak in No 11 Downing Street on June 9 - HM Treasury

10:51 AM

US Ambassador urges EU and UK to resume Brexit talks

Jane Hartley, the new US Ambassador to the UK, has urged Britain and the EU to resume talks to try to agree a solution to Northern Ireland Protocol problems.

Ms Hartley told Times Radio: "What we're saying is please have conversations, get this get this dialogue going again, there has to be a way that both sides could come to some agreement... this is an important time.

"The Good Friday Agreement, it will be 25 years in April. We want the peace, prosperity and security to continue. So what we would urge is please... please sit down, sit down privately. And let's see if there's a way to make this work for both sides."

10:48 AM

US has 'no closer ally than the UK '

The new US Ambassador to the UK has used her first interview in post to reaffirm support for the "Special Relationship" and to insist the White House has no closer ally than Britain.

Jane Hartley, who took office earlier this month, told Times Radio that "the White House has said to me many times that this is their key relationship".

Queen Elizabeth II, in residence at Windsor Castle, appears on a screen via videolink, during a virtual audience to receive the US Ambassador, Jane Hartley, at Buckingham Palace, London, on July 19 - Victoria Jones/PA
Queen Elizabeth II, in residence at Windsor Castle, appears on a screen via videolink, during a virtual audience to receive the US Ambassador, Jane Hartley, at Buckingham Palace, London, on July 19 - Victoria Jones/PA

She said that the "relationship between the UK and the US is deep and it's strong".

She added: "And there's no other partner, no other ally that we work with as closely, whether it be intelligence, security military, and obviously the importance of economics on both sides of the Atlantic."

10:27 AM

Liz Truss will 'look in detail' at Channel 4 business case

The Government has previously announced that it intends to privatise Channel 4.

Liz Truss said she would "look in detail" at the business case on Channel 4 if she becomes PM but she signalled she would support selling off the broadcaster.

Asked whether she was committed to privatising Channel 4, Ms Truss told reporters in Leeds: “I believe that where possible, it’s best to have companies operating in the private sector rather than the public sector.

“I will look in detail at the business case on Channel 4, but one thing I’m absolutely committed to is it staying in Leeds.”

10:17 AM

Liz Truss defends union proposals

Liz Truss has pledged a crackdown on union industrial action if she becomes prime minister.

Ms Truss said she believed it is "completely unfair" of unions to impose widespread disruption on working people.

She told reporters in Leeds: "I will put through legislation making sure that essential services are provided on our railways.

“I think it’s completely unfair on working people who are struggling to make ends meet at the moment, to stop them being able to use transport services, because of militant actions by the unions, so I will legislate to fix that.”

10:14 AM

'I will be tough in standing up to Putin'

Liz Truss said accusations that the Foreign Office under her leadership has lacked expertise on Russia were “completely untrue”.

She told reporters in Leeds: “We have led the world in standing up to Russia. We were the first country to send weapons to Ukraine in Europe, we put the toughest sanctions on Russia of any country, and we’re also making sure that nobody is allowing Ukraine’s sovereign territory to be given up, and we’ve worked with our allies to achieve that.

“I’m proud of our record, but we need to do more, and one of the key areas in bringing down the cost of living is dealing with Russia – making sure they can’t hold the world to ransom over their gas supplies – and I will be tough in standing up to Putin.”

10:11 AM

'I will fix the Treasury funding formula'

Liz Truss said she is “completely committed” to her plan for Northern Powerhouse Rail, and said she would “fix the Treasury’s funding formula” to make sure the north of England gets a “fairer share” of resources.

Asked how she would afford the rail scheme, which was recently watered down by Boris Johnson, given the tax cuts she has already pledged, Ms Truss said: “The taxes that I am cutting are affordable within our budget.

“What I am setting out is a plan for economic growth. The fact is we’ve had too low growth now for decades and by creating new low tax investment zones in places like West Yorkshire, by enabling the post-Brexit reforms to take place, unleashing more investment from the city, we will grow the economy faster – that will bring in more tax revenue, and that will enable us to afford those projects.

“I also think the funding formula has been unfair on places like Leeds and places like Yorkshire so I will fix the Treasury funding formula to make sure that this part of the country is getting a fairer share of Government resources because frankly, transport is much better in London and the South East than it is here in Leeds, and I will fix that.”

10:02 AM

Liz Truss: 'Not time for another windfall tax'

Liz Truss has said it is “not time for another windfall tax” to help with the cost of rising energy bills.

Speaking to reporters in Leeds, the Foreign Secretary said: “What I believe is we need to keep taxes low to attract investment into industries.

Liz Truss visits a broadband interchange company in Leeds this morning  - Ian Forsyth/PA
Liz Truss visits a broadband interchange company in Leeds this morning - Ian Forsyth/PA

“We need to turbocharge investment into the North of England, bringing more businesses and opportunities.

“The best way to do that is to keep taxes low and attract that investment into our great towns and cities, and that’s what I’m focused on.”

09:43 AM

'100 per cent nuclear grade tosh'

A report in The Mirror today claimed that allies of Boris Johnson are drawing up a list of Tory safe seats he could move to amid fears he could lose his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency at the next general election.

It was suggested that Nadine Dorries' Mid-Bedfordshire seat could be on the list and that she could make way for Mr Johnson.

But the Culture Secretary today rubbished the report. She told the BBC: "That story that you have seen... is 100 per cent nuclear grade tosh. The Prime Minister and I have never ever had that conversation ever."

09:29 AM

PM 'opposes leadership petition'

It has been claimed that more than 10,000 Tory members have signed a petition calling for Boris Johnson's name to be added to the leadership contest ballot paper.

Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, said this morning that Mr Johnson does not support the calls and had recently told her that the push is "not right".

Asked if she supported the petition, Ms Dorries told the BBC: “The Prime Minister actually spoke to me about this a few days ago and he said just in passing ‘if you hear anything about these people, tell them to stop, it is not right’.

“They were his words, his exact words.”

09:18 AM

PM was 'removed via a ruthless coup'

Nadine Dorries has accused Rishi Sunak of helping to lead a "ruthless coup" to oust Boris Johnson from 10 Downing Street.

The Culture Secretary, who is a supporter of Liz Truss, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I am bitterly disappointed that Boris Johnson was removed via a ruthless coup, as he was, led largely by Rishi Sunak.”

09:11 AM

'It’s about who voters can relate to'

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has defended her recent attack on Rishi Sunak’s expensive clothes and said she had warned that a contest to replace Boris Johnson would “unleash the hounds of hell”.

She told BBC Breakfast: “Removing a sitting Prime Minister who won us an 80-seat majority less than three years ago, who took us through Covid and led the world in the response to the war in Ukraine – defenestrating that Prime Minister was never going to be a clean or easy thing for anyone to do.

“It was always going to have repercussions. I think I said at the very beginning we kind of unleashed the hounds of hell in doing that.”

Asked about her comments on Mr Sunak’s expensive suit and shoes, Ms Dorries said: “Judgment is a huge issue. We are facing a cost-of-living crisis.”

The Liz Truss supporter said there was no barrier to someone wealthy becoming PM but “it’s about judgment and it’s about who voters can relate to and who voters can relate to and who voters think have walked in their shoes and can understand their lives”.

09:09 AM

Pictured: Liz Truss visits broadband interchange ahead of hustings in Leeds

Liz Truss and Tory MP Jake Berry make a campaign visit to a broadband interchange in Leeds this morning - Ian Forsyth /Getty Images Europe
Liz Truss and Tory MP Jake Berry make a campaign visit to a broadband interchange in Leeds this morning - Ian Forsyth /Getty Images Europe

09:04 AM

'He has made a complete mess of this'

Andrew Fisher, the author of Labour's 2019 general election manifesto, has accused Sir Keir Starmer of making a "complete mess" of the party's stance on rail strikes.

He told LBC Radio: "I think he has made a complete mess of this from the start. If you are in a dispute which the unions are and it is not just the rail unions... Labour's demands should be simple which is workers' pay has got to keep up with inflation.

"That is the very modest demand of the RMT in this dispute and that their members don't lose their jobs, which again, is a fairly modest demand.

"Labour should be with them. There is no dispute about that. It is very clear that the government in Grant Shapps is acting to put a brake on settling this dispute. Really Keir Starmer ought to be focused on the Government, on Grant Shapps, and on the railway companies that are ripping off passengers and workers at moment by making lots of profit and keeping it for themselves."

08:56 AM

Sunak ally defends fuel bill VAT plan

Victoria Atkins, a supporter of Rishi Sunak, has defended the former chancellor's pledge to temporarily cut VAT on energy bills for one year if he becomes PM.

Denying that it was a U-turn, Ms Atkins said: "Throughout the pandemic Rishi has shown that he will react to circumstances as they change and be very flexible, very quick in reacting."

Ms Atkins was asked how the pledge will be paid for. She insisted it is not unfunded but also suggested it would just be "absorbed" by the Treasury.

Rishi Sunak is pictured yesterday at a campaign event in Newmarket - Joe Giddens/AFP
Rishi Sunak is pictured yesterday at a campaign event in Newmarket - Joe Giddens/AFP

Asked if the pledge is unfunded, she told Sky News: "No, it is estimated about £4 billion, it is a temporary cut, a temporary targeted cut.

"But he has done the calculations very firmly that we can absorb this in a way that perhaps other tax cuts suggested by Liz of a much wider scale perhaps don't have the funding behind them that Rishi and other economists would like to see."

08:46 AM

Sir Keir Starmer has 'completely misread the situation'

Sir Keir Starmer and his advisers have "completely misread the situation" on rail strikes and have also "misread the mood amongst the general public", John McDonnell has claimed.

The former shadow chancellor told Sky News: "We have got to back them [the unions] because it is a just cause."

Mr McDonnell was asked about the prospect of a general strike as more unions ballot for industrial action and he said: "I support coordinated action because if that results then in a decent pay rise for people, they are protected against the cost-of-living crisis, I think that is the most effective thing to do."

08:38 AM

'Advisers around Keir have dug us into a hole'

John McDonnell said Sir Keir Starmer's advisers have "dug us into a hole" by telling Labour frontbenchers they are not allowed to join union picket lines.

The former shadow chancellor told Sky News: "I think the advisers around Keir have dug us into a hole in the first place, unnecessarily, by telling people not to go in picket lines.

"The reality is over the years we were formed by the trade unions so when the trade unions have a just cause we support them and this is a just cause."

08:31 AM

John McDonnell accuses Starmer of 'severe mistake' over Tarry sacking

John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, has criticised Sir Keir Starmer for sacking Sam Tarry as he said it has sparked a "completely unnecessary row". The senior Labour MP said Sir Keir and his advisers had made a "severe mistake".

Speaking to Sky News, he said: "I don't know who is advising Keir Starmer but this is a completely unnecessary row that has been invented just at a time when the Tories are tearing themselves apart and we have got the maximum opportunity, I think, to gain an advantage in the polls, build the support to take us into government, we are having this completely unnecessary row.

"Sam went on the picket lines like minister after minister, shadow minister after shadow minister, over the years in support of workers who are asking for a decent pay rise, it is a just cause.

"Now we are told he has been sacked not because he went on the picket lines but because he made statements on the picket lines. But what was he supposed to do, go on there and wear a gag? It is a silly, silly situation to get into. I think we just need to accept that there will be a wave of industrial action now inevitably from union after union because their members are voting overwhelmingly for industrial action because they are saying 'we can't accept a pay cut' and we have got to come off the fence and be on the side of a just cause. The workers, I think they have got it right.

"This is an unnecessary dispute and I regret, whoever has advised Keir Starmer on this I think has made a severe mistake."

08:22 AM

Diane Abbott criticises Sir Keir Starmer

Diane Abbott, the former shadow home secretary and an ally of the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, suggested the sacking of Sam Tarry by Sir Keir Starmer is unprecedented.

She told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme: “The point about sacking Sam Tarry is I have never known a Labour leader sack a minister or a shadow minister for going on a picket line before.”

Labour has insisted Mr Tarry was not sacked for joining the picket line but rather for failing to stick to the party's policy positions and for conducting media interviews without permission.

Ms Abbott rubbished the party's official position as she claimed: “The real reason that Sam Tarry was sacked was because he went on a picket line. Everybody knows that.”

08:16 AM

'The public want to see the Labour Party stand with the RMT'

Sir Keir Starmer is facing a Labour backlash after he sacked Sam Tarry from his role as shadow transport minister yesterday (you can read the full story here).

Mr Tarry had joined a union picket line in the morning to show support for striking rail workers despite Sir Keir telling shadow ministers not to take part.

A Labour spokesman insisted Mr Tarry had not been sacked for appearing on a picket line but rather for failing to stick to the party's policy positions and for conducting media interviews without getting permission.

Diane Abbott, the former shadow home secretary, criticised Sir Keir for failing to support the strikes as she told the BBC: “The RMT is standing up for ordinary people and I think the public want to see the Labour Party stand with the RMT and stand with ordinary people.”

08:10 AM

Boris Johnson 'was removed via a coup'

Boris Johnson was "removed via a coup", the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has claimed.

Ms Dorries, who is backing Liz Truss in the Tory leadership race, was asked this morning to what extent she blamed Rishi Sunak for Mr Johnson leaving No 10 after his decision to quit as chancellor piled the pressure on the PM to go.

She told Sky News: “It is not a secret that things happened that shouldn’t have happened and that Boris Johnson was removed via a coup…”

08:08 AM

Nadine Dorries: Truss can 'pick up the baton' from PM

Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary and a supporter of Liz Truss, said she believes the Foreign Secretary can "pick up the baton" from Boris Johnson and lead the nation with "integrity and loyalty".

Ms Dorries, a leading ally of Mr Johnson, was asked during an interview with Sky News this morning how she felt when the PM announced his resignation.

She said: “I was very disappointed. I thought it was a huge mistake but what I would say is that in Liz Truss we have somebody who has both integrity and loyalty and is able to pick up the baton using those very important qualities to take the country forward.”

08:06 AM

Good morning

Good morning and welcome to today's politics live blog.

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak will take part in the first official Tory hustings event in Leeds this evening, with both candidates hoping to gain an advantage in the race for No 10.

The contest is now entering a key phase as Conservative Party members prepare to start voting, with ballots due to arrive on doorsteps between August 1 and August 5.

Meanwhile, Labour is bracing for a civil war after Sir Keir Starmer sacked Sam Tarry from the frontbench for joining a union picket line.

It promises to be another busy day in Westminster and I will guide you through the key developments.