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Sunak and Truss's Q&A with Sky – the reaction

5 August 2022

4:50 AM

5 August 2022

4:50 AM

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss were quizzed by Sky News’s Kay Burley and undecided Tory members this evening, with Truss the runaway favourite according to the bookies. Refresh this page for the reaction.

9.30 p.m. – Is this a turning point?

Katy Balls writes… Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss faced an audience of undecided Tory members this evening. Both received a grilling. But when the audience were asked who had won them over, the former Chancellor had a big majority of the audience. Now of course, these are the undecided – and all the polling suggests many have already decided in favour of Truss. However, Sunak’s team needed something to show the race is closer than the polls suggest. The snap judgment works in their favour.

9.25 p.m. – Sunak wealth referenced again

James Heale writes… Burley does her ‘quickfire questions’ round again with Sunak and asks him about any skeletons in his closet. He points out he’s held a prominent post for more than two years and that much of his personal life was reported on in the press earlier this year. This audience seems more pro-Rishi than the current polls would suggest and he gets a big round of applause when Burley mocks his Prada shoes. One of the features of these hustings has been that every time Sunak’s wealth is brought up, he gets applause from the audience. Members certainly don’t seem concerned about it.

9.18 p.m. – Sunak says he can unite the party

“I’m the person that can bring people together”.@RishiSunak vows to restore party unity after the Tory leadership contest, saying we must “bring people back together” and ‘look forward’.#BattleForNo10: https://t.co/ZTbv6x8cal

📺 Sky 501, Virgin 602, Freeview 233 and YouTube pic.twitter.com/vpEBTYxajc

— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 4, 2022

9.11 p.m. – Sunak slams Truss’s tax cuts

James Heale writes… The benefit of going second in a hustings is that you can respond to what’s been said before. Sunak picks up on Truss’s earlier comments on the economy and argues it’s inflation, not the tax burden, that is causing a recession. He says of cutting taxes now: ‘it’s not right, it’s not responsible and it’s certainly not conservative.’

9.10 p.m. – It’s the economy, stupid

Katy Balls writes… Rishi Sunak is by far most confident when talking about the economy. After a series of tricky questions on Boris Johnson, Sunak has steered the conversation back to the economy. He warns that Truss’s plans risk making the precarious financial situation worse: ‘The lights on the economy are flashing red and the root cause is inflation. I am worried that Liz Truss’ plans will make the situation worse’.

9.07 p.m. – ‘Free at the point of use, not misuse’

James Forsyth writes… Sunak is pushing his idea of a £10 charge for missed NHS appointments in a section on NHS dentistry. Under his proposal, people would be excused the first time, but if they missed it repeatedly they would be charged. When Kay Burley said that the low paid were most likely to miss appointments, Sunak replied that the change would allow the NHS to run more efficiently and argued that it should be ‘free at the point of use, not misuse’.

9.05 p.m. – Et tu Rishi?

Katy Balls… Kay Burley has put to Rishi Sunak that he cannot be trusted. An audience member then accuses him of ‘knifing Boris’. Sunak thanks the audience member for the question and says he wants to address it. He says that a Prime Minister and Chancellor can’t disagree on fiscal policy and that 60 ministers resigned in total. However, Sunak is then pressed again by the audience member who cites the fact his campaign website was registered months before that resignation. It’s an uncomfortable exchange but it’s clearly one Sunak feels he needs to have given the betrayal narrative is cutting through among some members.

9.04 p.m. –  Rishi gets his hairshirt on

James Heale writes… A question about honesty in politics gives Sunak the chance to repeat his big pitch about hard truths. He tells the audience that he views honesty as saying things that are right, even if they are unpopular. He takes a swipe at Truss by saying he isn’t making his own life any easier by promising ‘billions of tax cuts.’

8.57 p.m. – ‘Total coke addict’

James Heale writes… A Bury St Edmunds councillor asks Sunak about NHS dentistry. Sunak reveals that he’s got seven fillings from ‘drinking too much Coke as a youngster.’ He goes on to tout his policy to introduce fines for people who miss NHS appointments, arguing ‘it’s about the misuse of resources.’ Like Truss, he doesn’t suggest putting additional resources into the health service.


8.55 p.m. – Sunak under pressure over defence funding

James Heale writes… An audience member asks Sunak if he will support giving adequate resources to the Armed Forces. It’s a potentially difficult issue for the former Chancellor, given the comments from Defence Secretary Ben Wallace that the Treasury didn’t provide him with sufficient funding. Sunak claims ‘I don’t believe in arbitrary targets, I believe in a threats based approach.’ He also points to the defence spending uplift he agreed at the Treasury: ‘the largest increase since the end of the Cold War.’

“I am going to fight incredibly hard till the last day of this campaign for each and every one of your votes”.

Rishi Sunak refuses to step aside in the #ToryLeadershipContest , adding that he has “lots of support”.#BattleForNo10: https://t.co/ZTbv6x8cal

📺 Sky 501, Virgin 602 pic.twitter.com/ljuVpNP74g

— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 4, 2022

8.49 p.m. – Rishi in the hotseat

Katy Balls writes… It’s Rishi Sunak’s turn. It begins with an audience member question: will he drop out if the polls continue to show a large lead for Liz Truss? Sunak says no and receives an audience cheer. He also dismisses the idea that Truss has more support from Conservative big beasts – pointing to the fact that former Chancellor Nigel Lawson and former leader Michael Howard both back him – along with the highest number of MPs in the parliamentary rounds.

8.45 p.m. – Boris hangs over this contest

Katy Balls writes… Would Liz Truss withdraw the whip from Boris Johnson if he is found to have knowingly misled parliament by the privileges committee? Truss responded by suggesting she wouldn’t answer hypotheticals but she then said she didn’t think he had – which suggests her mind has been made up.

Steerpike writes… Liz Truss says she won’t make any ‘pre-judgment’ on whether she would strip the whip from Boris Johnson if he is found to have misled parliament. She then, er, prejudges the privileges committee inquiry, saying: ‘I’m very clear he didn’t mislead Parliament.’

8.39 p.m. – Does Truss have any skeletons?

Steerpike writes… Some fun ‘quickfire questions’ from Kay Burley here. Asked for the ‘naughtiest thing she’s ever done’ Truss refuses to say as ‘my daughter is watching at home.’ Burley remarks that being PM is the most exposed job in British public life: is there anything Truss wishes to confess to right now in the studio? The Foreign Secretary bats away the invitation from Burley, remarking breezily that ‘everything I’ve ever said and done is known about.’

8.36 p.m. – Should we arm Taiwan?

James Heale writes… Given the ongoing tensions in the Taiwan Strait, should Britain be arming the Taiwanese people? It’s a good question by Kay Burley because Truss effectively endorsed such a move five weeks ago, before being forced to ‘walk back’ her comments. The Foreign Secretary says there are already mechanisms to give Taiwan the weapons it needs. She also says that, unlike Nancy Pelosi, she wouldn’t visit Taiwan, citing the existing convention under which British ministers don’t visit the East Asian country.

Katy Balls writes… What is Truss’s Taiwan policy? The frontrunner in the leadership contest has pitched herself as the biggest China hawk in the contest. However, she has limits – Truss tells Burley she would not follow the example of America’s Nancy Pelosi and visit Taiwan.

8.31 p.m. – Truss having a tricky time, but will it matter?

Michael Simmons writes… Is it already too late? Whatever Sunak does tonight, the bookies put his chances of entering No. 10 at just 12 per cent. Ever since the final two emerged there has been no major movements in the odds. Truss is the nailed on favourite. Perhaps this makes the question of who to endorse an easy one for cabinet hopefuls.

8.29 p.m. – Is it a bad night for the frontrunner?

Katy Balls writes… This is proving to be an uncomfortable session for Truss. She had to deal with several tricky audience questions and now Kay Burley is pressing the point on her policy U-turn this week regarding regional pay boards. Both in reply to the audience member and the Sky anchor, Truss tried to move forward suggesting it was no longer worth talking about given the policy had been axed. However, Burley put to Truss that leaders ought to own their mistakes.

Tensions rise in the audience and @TrussLiz steps in to intervene…

“We’re going into a very, very difficult time as a country and we need somebody leading this country who is prepared to make decisions”.#BattleForNo10: https://t.co/ZTbv6x8cal

📺 Sky 501, Virgin 602 pic.twitter.com/WwfGnvRzBm

— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 4, 2022

8.25 p.m. – Audience member asks Truss to apologise

Steerpike writes… Ooft. An audience member asks Truss about her proposal to make potential savings of £8.8 billion by introducing regional pay boards outside of London and the South East. He asks for an apology for her ‘offensive’ plan to pay staff in poorer areas less. Truss suggests it was somewhat misrepresented; he demands to know how. Unsurprisingly, Kay Burley chooses this subject for her first question, asking just how exactly the media has misrepresented Truss’s policy. Truss admits ‘I do accept that the way the policy was interpreted was not right’ but says ‘I’m not going ahead with it.’

Conservative leadership hopeful Liz Truss explains why she cancelled her proposal to introduce regional pay bodies, saying the policy plans were “misinterpreted”.#BattleForNo10: https://t.co/ZTbv6x8JZT

📺 Sky 501, Virgin 602, Freeview 233 and YouTube pic.twitter.com/nzbFVRarXJ

— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 4, 2022

8.21 p.m. – Soundbites or sound money?

Katy Balls writes… Is Rishi Sunak’s mortgage attack line cutting through? Liz Truss has just been taken to task by an audience member over her spending plans. The member of the public accused Truss of unsound finances over her plans to borrow to fund tax cuts. While Truss tried to bounce the question off by pointing to countries with higher debt, the lady kept coming back. She put to Truss that she didn’t want her children to be lumbered with debt or deal with the 15 per cent mortgage interest she had to experience. The Foreign Secretary tried to say that this wouldn’t happen but the very fact that this is coming up as a concern suggests that Team Sunak’s decision to zone in on what Truss’s economic plans could mean for mortgages is yielding results.

James Heale writes… An interesting tête-à-tête between Truss and an audience member who questions the candidate’s tax cuts plan. She points out that such cuts don’t necessarily guarantee increased revenue, using the case of Germany which has a much higher rate of corporation tax than the UK. She adds: ‘I do not want to see my children and my grandchildren encumbered with huge debt at a time of rising interest rates. The one thing Margaret Thatcher believed in was sound money. This is not sound economics.’ Truss sticks to her script and says tax cuts do in fact work. Probably put that audience member down as a Rishi backer…

“The most important thing is that we deliver on the promises we made.”

Liz Truss says the Conservative Party needs to deliver the promises of Brexit, as well as “unleash opportunity, grow the economy and keep taxes low”.#BattleForNo10: https://t.co/ZTbv6x8cal

📺 Sky 501 pic.twitter.com/fW26OKKsAU

— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 4, 2022

8.19 p.m. – Truss comfortable on Ukraine

Katy Balls writes… Liz Truss is on comfortable ground when she is talking about foreign affairs. In this session so far, she has come across as most confident when taking a question on Ukraine. As I say in this week’s magazine, the Foreign Secretary has the potential to be more hawkish than her predecessor on Ukraine. Pressed tonight on her comments suggesting that Russia must be pushed out from the whole of Ukraine, Truss ultimately said it was a decision for the people of Ukraine – but made clear she is uncomfortable with ceding ground to Putin.

8.17 p.m. – Labour getting in on the act

Steerpike writes… The Labour party are keen to crash the party tonight. Their press account on Twitter has rebranded for the night to ‘Tory debate watch’ and has been tweeting out attack lines all night. Take this pithy gem: ‘Reminder: Liz voted for every one of Rishi’s 15 tax rises.’ Shades of 2019 and CCHQ’s infamous ‘Fact Check UK’ account…

Reminder: Liz voted for every one of Rishi’s 15 tax rises.#battleforno10

— TORY DEBATE WATCH (@labourpress) August 4, 2022

8.13 p.m. – Ukraine is Truss’s moment to shine

Steerpike writes… Team Truss will be thanking their lucky stars. An audience member suggests Britain ought to be facilitating a negotiation between Ukraine and Russia ‘rather than continuing to pour weapons in.’ That allows Truss to talk tough on the issue, noting the importance of not giving succour to tyrants like Putin and his ilk. But the Foreign Secretary fluffs the follow up, choosing to give a diplomatic response to her inquisitor demanding a negotiated settlement. The likes of Thatcher and Blair would have gone for the kill and lambasted appeasement. Shame!

8.12 p.m. – Truss pressing the right buttons

James Heale writes… Liz Truss is handling these questions well and it’s a sign of how much she’s grown over the past four weeks. Her answers aren’t particularly inspired but they press the right buttons for Tory members. Asked a question about the NHS, she references meeting people on the campaign trail who have encountered ‘seven or eight layers’ of management, suggesting institutional reform ought to be a priority rather than spending more money. Pressed by Kay Burley if she wants to sack hundreds of NHS managers, Truss declines, suggesting the answer is about better deployment of personnel and a more local approach. The audience seem to like that.

8.10 p.m. – Truss responds to Bank of England’s recession prediction 

‘The Bank of England have said that a recession is inevitable, what can you do to mitigate the impact of this?’

The forecast is “extremely worrying”, admits @TrussLiz, but says she will help the economy by cutting tax.#BattleForNo10: https://t.co/ZTbv6x8cal pic.twitter.com/orAQ1wnuDI

— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 4, 2022

8.04 p.m. – Liz the early winner

Steerpike writes… Sky is hosting 60 party members and others in their debate tonight. Kay Burley told viewers that they decided who was going to speak first with a coin toss. Liz Truss won that and she suggests that Britain’s economic woes could be eased if the National Insurance hike was reversed. Is that enough?

7.55 p.m. – Sunak turns up the heat

Katy Balls writes… The countdown for the Sky News show down is underway but a row has already broken out between the two camps. Today the Rishi Sunak campaign launched a website called ‘not in your interest’ which encourages visitors to enter how much money they have left on their mortgage to see how Liz Truss’s economy policy (of borrowing to fund tax cuts) could increase their monthly payments. The metrics are based off comments by the economist Patrick Minford, who Truss previously cited, despite the fact he has tried to row back from claims he suggested the proposals could lead to a five per cent rise.

Suffice to say the website had led supporters of Truss to see red. A member of the Truss camp tells me: ‘Simple question: Does Rishi Sunak have a mortgage, and if so on which home and in which of the two nations he calls home?’. Sunak’s team have hit back: ‘ ‘What happened to an aspiration nation. Jacob Rees Mogg might call that response somewhat socialist, and he’d be right. If that’s all they’ve got, they are worried’.

Let’s see if the candidates manage to rein in the personal attacks tonight.

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