Truss's cost of living plan risks pushing millions of vulnerable people into 'destitution', says Sunak

·31 min read
Rishi Sunak addresses Tory members at a leadership hustings event in Cheltenham this evening - Shutterstock
Rishi Sunak addresses Tory members at a leadership hustings event in Cheltenham this evening - Shutterstock

Rishi Sunak has claimed Liz Truss's plan for tackling the cost-of-living crisis could push "millions" of the most vulnerable people in the UK into "real destitution".

The former chancellor attacked Ms Truss's promise to prioritise tax cuts as he stressed his priority if he wins the Tory leadership contest would be to provide more direct financial support to pensioners and low earners as they struggle with rising energy bills.

Speaking at a Tory hustings event hosted by The Telegraph in Cheltenham tonight, Mr Sunak said: "If you support a plan that Liz is suggesting which says she doesn’t believe in doing that, doesn’t believe in providing direct financial support to those groups of people and that is what she has said because she thinks her tax cut is going to help them which it is not, we are going to as a Conservative government leave millions of incredibly vulnerable people at the risk of real destitution.

“Now, I think that is a moral failure.”

Ms Truss defended her plan at the event as she said that it is better for people to keep more of their money in the first place, rather than having the government take it off them in tax and then hand it back in the form of benefits.

The Foreign Secretary said that "of course we always need to make sure we are helping people and supporting people" but she stressed that to do that the UK needs to see economic growth - which she argued her tax cuts would help to deliver.

Asked if she was for or against "handouts" to help with energy bills, Ms Truss said "my first preference is always to reduce taxes". But she stressed she could not write or announce the contents of a Budget now.

09:48 PM

That is all for this evening...

Thank you for joining me for tonight's special edition of the politics live blog.

We will be live blogging the Tory hustings events taking place next week and hopefully you will join us then.

09:44 PM

Liz Truss vs Rishi Sunak: Who won the Telegraph's Tory leadership hustings?

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak went head to head this evening at a members' hustings in Cheltenham, hosted by The Telegraph's Camilla Tominey.

The final two candidates were grilled on pivotal topics, from tax cuts and reforms to the economy, that will shape party members’ decisions - and Britain’s future.

With six official hustings down and six more to go, you can read our writers' verdicts here, on who gained an advantage in the increasingly bitter race for No 10.

09:30 PM

Lib Dems: 'Truss and Sunak completely out of touch with Blue Wall towns like Cheltenham'

The Liberal Democrats have now responded to the Tory leadership hustings in Cheltenham.

The Cheltenham seat, currently held by the Tories, is a key Lib Dem target.

The party's parliamentary candidate for Cheltenham, Max Wilkinson, said: "This debate proved Truss and Sunak are completely out of touch with Blue Wall towns like Cheltenham.

"They have abandoned Cheltenham, leaving us with sky high taxes and no help with unbearable energy bills. Families and business owners here know they will be left out in the cold this winter under Truss and Sunak's plans."

09:18 PM

Snap analysis: Truss seemed comfortable

Liz Truss appeared to be very relaxed as she was grilled by Camilla Tominey and Tory members in Cheltenham this evening.

She did not get flustered, cracked some jokes and managed to avoid any heated confrontations. In short, she looked like a frontrunner.

Rishi Sunak, in contrast, was all energy as he criticised Ms Truss's economic plans and launched a passionate defence of his record as chancellor.

There was no single standout moment for either candidate but that likely only suits Ms Truss. Critics will argue that Mr Sunak needs something significant to happen to change the momentum in the contest but he failed to deliver that tonight.

09:08 PM

Sunak: Functioning government would win over voters

Rishi Sunak was asked how he would engage with voters to win the next general election.

The former chancellor said that he would seek to raise "far more money" for the Conservative Party to pay for "dedicated campaign managers in all of our target areas".

He said that the "people we need to appeal to... they are not actually that ideological" and "what they want is a government that works properly... and that is what I will do".

08:59 PM

'You must be joking'

Rishi Sunak was told that as someone who went to a private school he had been afforded opportunities that many people would never have access to.

The former chancellor hit back and said: "Yes I have and... I am not going to apologise for what my parents did for me, you must be joking."

08:55 PM

Rishi Sunak has not spoken to PM since quitting

Rishi Sunak was asked if he supported the Privileges Committee probe into whether Boris Johnson misled Parliament over Partygate. Some Tories have called for the probe to be dropped.

Mr Sunak said: "It is a parliamentary process, not a government process... I fully respect the MPs that are on the committee to make the right decisions. I personally believe very strongly in high standards."

Asked if he had spoken to Mr Johnson since he quit as chancellor, Mr Sunak said: "I have messaged and called but unsurprisingly he hasn't returned my calls."

08:52 PM

Sunak 'very prepared to confront the consensus'

Rishi Sunak was asked about claims that he had been "taken hostage" by the Treasury during his time as chancellor.

Mr Sunak rejected the suggestion. He said, as one example, that he did not listen to the Treasury when it came to documents published ahead of the 2016 EU referendum.

He also insisted that he is "very prepared to confront the consensus".

08:46 PM

Rishi Sunak promises more financial help for most vulnerable

Asked how he would help families dealing with rising energy bills, Rishi Sunak said that "everyone will need some help" and he cited his proposed cut to VAT on energy bills as a measure that will do just that.

He said he would also bring forward help for the most vulnerable and pensioners.

Asked what specifically he could do for those groups, Mr Sunak said he would provide "direct financial support to those groups of people".

He warned that Liz Truss's plan (favouring tax cuts instead of direct support) could "leave millions of incredibly vulnerable people at the risk of real destitution".

"I think that is a moral failure," he said.

Rishi Sunak heads to the stage at tonight's Tory leadership hustings event in Cheltenham - Eddie Mulholland for The Telegraph
Rishi Sunak heads to the stage at tonight's Tory leadership hustings event in Cheltenham - Eddie Mulholland for The Telegraph

08:42 PM

'I am going to fight until the last day with everything I have got'

Liz Truss has now finished her Q&A grilling and Rishi Sunak is now on stage for his turn.

Mr Sunak was told that Liz Truss is ahead of him in the Tory leadership contest. He was asked why he does not withdraw from the contest to allow the Foreign Secretary to take office now.

He said: "For the simple reason that I am fighting for what I believe is right for our country."

Asked why he believed Tory MP Chris Skidmore had defected from his campaign to Ms Truss's, Mr Sunak pointed out that he "led in every single round" of the parliamentary stage of the contest.

He said: "We are only half way through this thing. I am going to fight until the last day with everything I have got because I am fighting for what I believe in."

08:33 PM

Truss promises a 'less presidential No 10'

Liz Truss was asked what her three key qualities are which would help secure the backing of swing voters at the next general election.

The Foreign Secretary said that "first of all I will not have an election before 2024".

Ms Truss said that "delivery is the number one point" and secondly is that she does not "make promises I can't keep".

Lastly, Ms Truss said that she would want to see a "less presidential No 10 and one that really presents a team of fantastic Conservatives". She said she would win the election "as a team".

Liz Truss is pictured this evening as she takes part in the Tory leadership hustings event in Cheltenham - Jamie Lorriman for The Telegraph
Liz Truss is pictured this evening as she takes part in the Tory leadership hustings event in Cheltenham - Jamie Lorriman for The Telegraph

08:28 PM

Liz Truss sets out three priorities for first 90 days in No 10

Liz Truss was asked by an audience member what she would consider success to be after her first 90 days in Downing Street, if she wins the Tory leadership contest.

She said she would have three priorities.

She said she would want to show that the UK is "moving in the right direction" and that pressures on household finances are "being reduced".

She said she would also want to see evidence of growing investment in the UK and to "get a grip" of NHS waiting lists.

08:19 PM

Liz Truss pledges to 'reform' BBC licence fee

Liz Truss was asked a series of yes/no questions. Here are her responses:

Cut foreign aid: "I will keep it as it is."

Leave the ECHR: "If we need to, but I'd rather legislate through the British Bill of Rights."

Sack 91,000 civil servants: "I will certainly reduce the size of the civil service over time."

Scrap the BBC licence fee: "I will reform the BBC licence fee and I certainly think it is completely wrong that so many women are in jail for non-payment of it."

Net Zero: "I will keep the Net Zero pledge."

Cap on immigration: "No."

08:16 PM

Liz Truss was 'pretty equivocal' on Brexit stance

Liz Truss was asked if she is the sort of politician who changes her position to suit her ambitions after she was told that she used to be a Lib Dem before joining the Tories and also supported Remain before becoming a Brexiteer.

Ms Truss said that she was "pretty equivocal at the time" on Brexit in the run up to the 2016 referendum and she "wasn't sure".

She said that she was "concerned about potential disruption" of leaving the EU.

08:12 PM

Liz Truss insists spending plans are 'affordable'

Liz Truss said that she is "low tax, pro growth, pro opportunity" and she wants to ensure the UK is open for business.

Asked if she is therefore "low tax and high borrowing" to pay for it, Ms Truss said: "My tax cuts... will cost £30 billion. That is affordable within our current budget... I am afraid to say the plans of raising taxes are likely to lead to a recession..."

Ms Truss said that governments "always borrow money" and the UK is actually borrowing less than some of its international competitors.

08:08 PM

UK in 'real danger of us talking ourselves into a recession'

Rishi Sunak has now finished his speech and we have moved onto the grilling of candidates by Camilla Tominey. Up first is Liz Truss.

She was asked how she would lower people's energy bills.

Ms Truss said that her starting point would be helping people through tax cuts. She said that we "shouldn't be taking money off people in taxes and then giving it back as benefits".

The Foreign Secretary said that "of course we always need to make sure we are helping people and supporting people" but to do that the UK needs to see economic growth.

Ms Truss said there is a "real danger of us talking ourselves into a recession".

Asked if she is for or against "handouts" to help with energy bills, Ms Truss said "my first preference is always to reduce taxes" but stressed she cannot write or announce the contents of a Budget now.

08:04 PM

Rishi Sunak promises 'radicalism'

Referring to his time as chancellor during the coronavirus crisis, Rishi Sunak said that "as your PM I will apply that same energy, grip and radicalism to every aspect of government as we build a better Britain".

He promised that he will "give you my everything, my heart and my soul" to ensure that people "can always feel enormously proud of the Conservative government that I would be privileged to lead".

08:01 PM

Rishi Sunak criticises Liz Truss's economic plan

Rishi Sunak said his immediate focus as PM would be on tackling inflation.

He said: "We have seen this story before. Inflation is the enemy that makes everyone poorer."

Rishi Sunak makes his way to the stage in Cheltenham - Jamie Lorriman for The Telegraph
Rishi Sunak makes his way to the stage in Cheltenham - Jamie Lorriman for The Telegraph

Mr Sunak said he will "always support those who most need our help" as he said he would bring forward more targeted help for struggling families this autumn and winter when energy bills are due to spike again.

In a veiled attack on Liz Truss's tax cutting pledges and plan for the economy, the former chancellor said: "What I will not do is pursue policies that risk making inflation far worse and last far longer..."

07:56 PM

'I have said the things that people need to hear'

Talking about his values, Rishi Sunak highlighted the importance of hard work and a good education.

The former chancellor said that the "best way to spread opportunity" is to ensure "the birthright of every child is a world class education".

Mr Sunak said his three main goals as Tory leader would be to "restore trust", "rebuild the economy" and "reunite our country".

He said: "I haven't always said the things that people may want to hear but I have said the things that people need to hear because our country faces real challenges and I want to be straight with you about what is going to be required to fix those."

Rishi Sunak is welcomed to the stage by Tory members in Cheltenham - Jamie Lorriman for The Telegraph 
Rishi Sunak is welcomed to the stage by Tory members in Cheltenham - Jamie Lorriman for The Telegraph

07:53 PM

Rishi Sunak is now on stage

Rishi Sunak is now on stage in Cheltenham.

The former Chancellor started with a lighthearted campaigning anecdote. He said that a woman had recently asked him about his "relationship with the Prime Minister" as she told him that he was very different to Boris Johnson.

Mr Sunak said that the lady had told him: "He [Mr Johnson'] looks like he has lost his hairbrush but you look like your mum brushed your hair..."

07:50 PM

Sunak 'can reach floating voters'

Referring to Rishi Sunak, Alex Chalk said that "there is a candidate who speaks not just to the party but the country".

He said Mr Sunak is capable of "reaching floating voters" and leading the Conservative Party to another general election victory.

07:48 PM

Alex Chalk introduces Rishi Sunak

Alex Chalk, the former solicitor general and Tory MP for Cheltenham, is introducing Rishi Sunak.

Mr Chalk listed some of Mr Sunak's backers and said "we all see in Rishi... a rare find in British politics", referring to a comment previously made by Lord Hague, another of the former chancellor's supporters.

Mr Chalk said that "critically he [Mr Sunak] is a man of judgement because judgement is going to be absolutely essential in the coming months".

07:45 PM

Liz Truss vows to take on 'doom mongers'

Liz Truss said that people in the UK need to have a "bit more respect for ourselves and our values".

She said she would not give into "doom mongers" who are trying to "talk us into a negative cycle".

The Foreign Secretary also said that she is best placed to "beat the declinist Keir Starmer" as well as the Liberal Democrats.

Ms Truss received a lengthy round of applause after she concluded her speech.

07:42 PM

Liz Truss vows to extend Rwanda asylum scheme

Liz Truss said that as prime minister she would extend the Government's Rwanda asylum seeker plan, with deals struck with more countries.

The Foreign Secretary also said that she will "make sure that British legislators cannot be overruled by the ECHR, I will legislate for that".

07:39 PM

'We should never have done it'

Setting out her tax plans, Liz Truss said that reversing a hike to National Insurance is the right thing to do.

She said that "we should never have done it... we can still afford to pay for the NHS and social care out of general taxation...".

The Foreign Secretary said that she had decided to stop a planned increase to corporation tax (previously announced by Rishi Sunak when he was chancellor) because "fundamentally I am a Conservative" and she believes that people should be allowed to keep more of their own money.

Liz Truss addresses Tory members at a hustings event in Cheltenham - Jamie Lorriman for The Telegraph
Liz Truss addresses Tory members at a hustings event in Cheltenham - Jamie Lorriman for The Telegraph

07:36 PM

Liz Truss vows to defeat Lib Dems in west of England

Liz Truss is now on stage in Cheltenham.

The Foreign Secretary started by making light of her time as a member of the Liberal Democrats.

She said that she joined the Tories at the age of 21 "but I have a dark secret... before that I was a member of the Liberal Democrats".

Ms Truss joked that she knew she had "sinned" but that it was a "teenage mistake".

Ms Truss said that she had learnt the Lib Dems' "dirty tricks". The Foreign Secretary said that as Tory leader she would focus on defeating the Lib Dems and she promised to ensure the party "never come back here again in Cheltenham or anywhere else in the west of England".

07:31 PM

Brandon Lewis introduces Liz Truss

Brandon Lewis, the former Northern Ireland secretary, has the job of introducing Liz Truss this evening.

Mr Lewis said he became an MP alongside Ms Truss back in 2010 and then in 2012 they both became ministers at the same time.

Liz Truss supporters hand out signs at this evening's hustings event in Cheltenham  - Eddie Mulholland for The Telegraph
Liz Truss supporters hand out signs at this evening's hustings event in Cheltenham - Eddie Mulholland for The Telegraph

He said that during Ms Truss's time in government her focus has always been on "delivering, getting things done for the people across the United Kingdom and across a number of departments".

Mr Lewis said Ms Truss has succeeded in "difficult times" and that she "consistently stands up for the United Kingdom".

07:27 PM

Tory leader must 'unite the country and the party'

Andrew Stephenson, the chairman of the Conservative Party, said the next Tory leader will "relentlessly continue to deliver" for the British people.

He said the next PM will have the job of "uniting the country and uniting our Conservative Party".

Camilla Tominey, The Telegraph's Associate Editor, is now introducing the candidates who will be on stage very shortly.

07:24 PM

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak 'fantastic candidates'

Andrew Stephenson, the chairman of the Conservative Party, is now addressing the audience in Cheltenham.

He confirmed that The Telegraph-hosted hustings is sold out, with more than 1,800 people in attendance.

Mr Stephenson said seats "in this region" will be "key" to a Tory victory at the next general election.

He said he is staying neutral in the contest but believes Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are both "fantastic candidates".

07:21 PM

Ballot papers should have arrived by today

Peter Booth, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Board, said that all Tory members should have received their ballot paper by today.

He said he hoped tonight's event would provide "more clarity about how to cast your ballot".

07:20 PM

We are now underway in Cheltenham

Peter Booth, the chairman of the National Convention and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Board, is starting things off in Cheltenham.

He urged the audience to "make your questions searching" and "succinct". He said he was sure the audience would want to "test" each of the candidates to figure who would be best placed to lead "our great nation".

He also urged people to keep their questions "positive".

07:14 PM

Tory members applaud Boris Johnson

Footage of the 2019 general election exit poll - predicting a massive Tory victory - and Boris Johnson celebrating was just shown at the hustings event in Cheltenham.

Tory members erupted into a huge round of applause.

The Tory leadership hustings event in Cheltenham this evening  - Jamie Lorriman for The Telegraph
The Tory leadership hustings event in Cheltenham this evening - Jamie Lorriman for The Telegraph

07:12 PM

Don't forget to vote!

Telegraph readers will be able to express their view on who is winning tonight's Tory leadership hustings event by using our live voting tool at the top of the page.

You will be able to "up" or "down" vote the candidate who you think is doing the best or the worst.

07:09 PM

Tory members welcomed with stadium rock

This is the view from the press area this evening, writes Dominic Penna. Arrivals are being greeted with a playlist of eighties stadium rock, including the Bon Jovi song 'It's My Life'.

The atmosphere in the room is buzzing and on the basis of a quick unscientific count, there is slightly more "Liz for Leader" merchandise on show than "Ready for Rishi" merchandise.

But plenty of audience members also seem undecided - meaning both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have it all to do at The Telegraph's hustings tonight. Not long to wait now.

A view of the Tory leadership hustings event in Cheltenham this evening  - Dominic Penna
A view of the Tory leadership hustings event in Cheltenham this evening - Dominic Penna

07:03 PM

Reader poll: Which candidate do you trust more to tackle the cost-of-living crisis?

06:56 PM

Start time pushed back a little

Such is the number of people attending this evening's event in Cheltenham that the start time has had to be pushed back a little to make sure everyone is able to take their seats.

We should hopefully be underway at about 7.15pm.

06:51 PM

Atmosphere building in Cheltenham

The atmosphere continues to build in Cheltenham as we prepare to welcome Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to the stage in just over 10 minutes.

The candidates have followed this hustings format five times already but they will surely be nervous for this evening's event, given it is expected to be the biggest attendance in the contest so far.

It should be a box office two hours and I will do my best to guide you through the key moments.

Tory members prepare for this evening's hustings event in Cheltenham - Eddie Mulholland for The Telegraph
Tory members prepare for this evening's hustings event in Cheltenham - Eddie Mulholland for The Telegraph

06:34 PM

'I want to look at them both as people'

Sarah and Peter Nannestad from Wiltshire said they have "got their ballot papers waiting at home" and will make their mind up on who to vote for after tonight's hustings.

The married couple, both aged 77, told The Telegraph's chief political correspondent Camilla Turner that they want to hear from both candidates first hand before making up their minds.

"I want to look at them both as people," said Mrs Nannestad, a retired sports teacher. Meanwhile her husband, a former hotelier, said he will see who can make the more convincing argument about how to bring inflation down.

But David McKinley, 76, from north London, said as far as he is concerned "the race is over".

He said: "I've always thought Liz Truss is a viable prime minister. Rishi has come out of the blue, he only got his job because the previous guy resigned."

06:29 PM

Truss would be 'stronger on the international stage' than Sunak

Nick Winter, 67, a Liz Truss supporter who is at the Cheltenham hustings, said he was backing the Foreign Secretary because he believes she will be "stronger on the international stage" than Rishi Sunak.

He told The Telegraph's political reporter Dominic Penna: "I don’t like backstabbers and I just feel of the choice between the two, she is definitely the one.

“I know she was liberal when she was young, she was a Remainer not a Brexiteer, but we all make mistakes. I think she will be stronger on the international stage and be able to lead like Boris did. There’s always a question mark coming down to Rishi’s personality."

06:15 PM

Truss campaign offers supporters branded bottled water

Rishi Sunak's campaign offered its supporters and journalists free sun cream at an event earlier in the Tory leadership contest.

The "Liz for Leader" campaign has now tried to best its rival "Ready for Rishi" operation with an offer of free branded bottled water at the Cheltenham hustings.

06:10 PM

Rishi Sunak pledges new measures to combat drought

The latest policy announcement from the Rishi Sunak campaign has just dropped, with tonight's hustings events now less than an hour away.

Mr Sunak has set out a series of measures he would take as PM to boost the UK's resilience to drought.

The measures include better holding water companies to account for "unacceptable leakage" and burst water mains.

Mr Sunak has also pledged to work with farmers to improve water management infrastructure in order to protect their harvest.

The ex-chancellor said that "for too long, water hasn’t had the attention that it deserves" as he warned water companies that they "can and must step up".

06:06 PM

Watch: Camilla Tominey prepares to grill the candidates

05:57 PM

The stage is set in Cheltenham...

05:51 PM

Sunak supporters warn against Truss premiership

Dominic Penna, The Telegraph's political reporter, is outside the hustings venue in Cheltenham speaking to supporters from both campaigns.

Rowan Thandi, 19, who is handing out Rishi Sunak merchandise, said he is a "young, inspired university student that sees the future of this country in Rishi".

He said he believed Liz Truss could cast the Tories into "electoral oblivion".

He insisted members have not yet made up their minds in the contest and said everyone had to see Rishi “do his thing and convince people he’s the best choice for the country”.

05:46 PM

Rishi Sunak arrives in Cheltenham

Tory members are already starting to gather for tonight’s hustings, writes The Telegraph's political editor Ben Riley-Smith who is on the ground in Cheltenham.

Campaign stalls for both candidates have been set up under the blazing sun, with staffers handing out stickers and placards to supporters.

Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, was seen arriving at the venue a few minutes ago. Liz Truss is yet to be sighted.

Some 1,700+ members are expected to be in the audience - the biggest crowd for a hustings so far in the contest, according to Tory sources.

05:43 PM

Andrew Bailey issues warning to Liz Truss

Andrew Bailey has warned Liz Truss not to challenge the Bank of England's rule making powers and change its mandate, as tensions between Threadneedle Street and ministers continue to escalate.

In a letter to the Treasury committee, the Governor of the Bank of England said curbing the institution’s independence could damage its international reputation.

Mr Bailey also indicated his opposition to a proposal that would allow ministers to reverse any decisions made by City regulators if they are seen to be holding back post-Brexit reforms.

Ms Truss, who is the firm favourite to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister next month, has vowed to press ahead with the introduction of a so-called “call-in” power that would allow the government to override the decisions of regulators.

She has also pledged to review Threadneedle Street's mandate if she becomes prime minister and questioned the Bank's use of quantitative easing.

You can read the full story here.

05:41 PM

Where is left on the hustings trail? 

Tonight’s event in Cheltenham is the sixth of 12 official Tory leadership hustings.

The final six will take place in:

  • Perth, August 16 

  • Belfast, August 17

  • Manchester, August 19

  • Birmingham, August 23

  • Norwich, August 25

  • London, August 31

05:33 PM

Boris Johnson appeals to energy bosses

Away from the Tory leadership race, Boris Johnson today appealed to energy bosses to help ease the pressure on hard-pressed families after a dire new warning that energy bills could top £5,000 by the spring.

Representatives of major electricity companies arrived in Downing Street for crisis talks as analyst, Auxilione, said regulator Ofgem could be forced to raise the price cap for the average household to £5,038 from next April.

Boris Johnson is pictured meeting with energy bosses in Downing Street today - Downing Street 
Boris Johnson is pictured meeting with energy bosses in Downing Street today - Downing Street

However the meeting failed to produce any immediate concrete help for struggling consumers, with Mr Johnson acknowledging any “significant fiscal decisions” would be be a matter for his successor.

Instead the Prime Minister was reduced to urging the companies to act “in the national interest” in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which has caused the price of oil and gas to soar.

05:26 PM

How do the voting records of the candidates compare?

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have exchanged many heated words during the race to become the next prime minister - but their actions as MPs have often spoken louder.

Ahead of The Telegraph’s leadership hustings in Cheltenham, our analysis reveals how the two candidates have voted in hundreds of Commons votes over the last decade.

You can explore their voting records in full here.

05:17 PM

Will cost-of-living crisis dominate tonight’s hustings?

The way in which Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss would tackle the cost-of-living crisis has dominated the political news agenda in recent days.

Mr Sunak has made a clear commitment to provide extra targeted support to struggling households while Ms Truss has made a broader pledge to do all she can to help people.

It will be interesting to see how the different approaches are received by the Tory members in tonight’s audience.

Both candidates will be hoping to avoid a difficult moment of challenge from an audience member during the Q&A.

05:06 PM

Tory slanging match turns ugly

Rishi Sunak resisted attempts to cut Brexit red tape, two Cabinet ministers who helped steer the economy with him claimed, after 24 hours of bitter briefing wars in the Tory leadership race.

Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary - who both back Liz Truss - made the allegation in a Telegraph article.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, is pictured at Liz Truss's Tory leadership campaign launch on July 14 - Tolga Akmen/Shutterstock
Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, is pictured at Liz Truss's Tory leadership campaign launch on July 14 - Tolga Akmen/Shutterstock

The pair - two of the most senior government ministers with economic briefs - said that Mr Sunak “dug his heels in as Chancellor” on reforms only possible after the UK left the European Union.

You can read the full story and the op-ed written by Mr Kwarteng and Mr Clarke here.

04:56 PM

‘Recession on top of cost-of-living crisis would be utter human disaster’

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader and a supporter of Liz Truss, did a good job this morning of setting out the difficult picture which will face whoever wins the current contest when they enter Downing Street.

Sir Iain warned the cost-of-living crisis could be compounded by a predicted recession. The combination of the two would be an “utter human disaster”, he said, as he praised Ms Truss's plan for tax cuts.

He told Sky News: “Liz Truss has been crystal clear from the beginning that should the need arise, she will do whatever is necessary.

“But right now on a campaign it’s not feasible for two candidates to literally make up amounts of money on the back of an envelope. What she wants to do on day one to start with is to make sure that we reduce the burden of taxation because why?

“Right now we face the potential of a recession. If you have a recession on top of this cost-of-living crisis it would be an utter human disaster.

“We need to avoid recession at all costs in the course of this winter, we need to do something about that, that’s where lower tax is important.”

04:53 PM

Senior Tory MP: Sunak 'best for rural communities'

Mel Stride, a senior Tory MP and the chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, has said a majority of Devon MPs are backing Rishi Sunak as he said he believes the former chancellor will be "best for rural communities".

It is an interesting intervention, coming as Mr Sunak and Liz Truss head to Cheltenham for this evening's hustings event.

Picturesque Gloucestershire, firmly in the south west of England and not a million miles from Devon, also has its fair share of rural communities. It will be interesting to see which candidate gets the warmer welcome.

04:45 PM

Analysis: How will Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak approach tonight’s hustings?

One senior Tory MP I spoke to yesterday who happens to be a Truss supporter said they believed that most Conservative Party members will have already voted in the contest.

They argued that most people would have voted immediately once receiving their ballot.

The truth is that no one knows how many votes are still up for grabs and because of that both candidates will be eager to give their best possible performance this evening and at events in the coming weeks.

Rishi Sunak addresses Tory members at an event in Hertsmere, Hertfordshire  - Simon Walker
Rishi Sunak addresses Tory members at an event in Hertsmere, Hertfordshire - Simon Walker

The old adage of something not being over until it is actually over applies: Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak will be playing as if the score is still nil-nil.

They will also know that momentum can be a funny thing. One big error or one very impressive moment could be enough to torpedo a seemingly unsinkable campaign or elevate one which has seemingly struggled to get going.

04:33 PM

The format for this evening 

Both candidates will have the chance to deliver a speech, lasting for about 10 minutes.

Camilla Tominey, The Telegraph’s Associate Editor, will then grill each of the candidates separately.

Both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss will also face a Q&A with the audience of Tory members.

04:22 PM

How did we get here?

We are only halfway through the Tory leadership contest but it is safe to say the race so far has already been a bruising affair.

The two campaigns have exchanged increasingly bitter broadsides as they have tried to gain an advantage.

Liz Truss is pictured during a hustings event in Darlington on August 9  - Joanne Coates/Bloomberg
Liz Truss is pictured during a hustings event in Darlington on August 9 - Joanne Coates/Bloomberg

The hustings events so far have provided some of the box office moments of the campaign, with Penny Mordaunt using the second event to publicly announce her backing for Liz Truss while the fourth event was disrupted by protesters.

You can find out what happened at all the previous hustings events in this excellent explainer.

04:12 PM

Tonight’s event is sold out

This evening’s hustings event in Cheltenham is number six on the schedule and there are six more to go so tonight represents a halfway point in the contest.

Andrew Stephenson, the chairman of the Conservative Party, said this evening’s event hosted by The Telegraph will be the best attended hustings yet.

More than 1,800 tickets have been sold, officially making it a sell-out.

04:06 PM

Who is hosting tonight's hustings?

Tonight’s Tory leadership hustings in Cheltenham will start at 7pm and will finish at about 9pm.

It will be hosted by Camilla Tominey, The Telegraph’s Associate Editor. She will be putting the questions to the candidates.

04:02 PM

Good afternoon

Good afternoon and welcome to today’s special edition of The Telegraph’s politics live blog.

The Telegraph is hosting the sixth official Tory leadership hustings this evening and I will be on hand to guide you through the action.

There are now less than four weeks to go until the winner of the contest is due to be announced on September 5.

That means Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are running out of time to win over Tory members and secure their backing.

Tonight’s showdown in Cheltenham represents a major opportunity for Mr Sunak to gain ground or for Ms Truss to cement her status as the frontrunner.

Who will gain the upper hand? Let’s find out!