Rishi Sunak: I would rather lose Tory leadership race ‘than win on a false promise’

·37 min read
BBC's Nick Robinson interviews Rishi Sunak on Wednesday
BBC's Nick Robinson interviews Rishi Sunak on Wednesday

Rishi Sunak tonight insisted he would rather lose the Conservative leadership election than "win on a false promise" as his rival Liz Truss was grilled by Red Wall voters.

The former chancellor claimed her plans would not help the most needy and suggested her focus on cutting taxes immediately was "not the right thing to do".

In a primetime interview with Nick Robinson, Mr Sunak insisted: "I haven’t been saying the easy things, and actually I’m prepared to lose this contest if it means that I’ve been true to my values and I’m fighting for the things that I think are right for this country.

"I'd rather lose on those terms, than win by promising false things that I can’t deliver."

Facing questions from members of the public in Leigh in a GB News special earlier this evening, Ms Truss declined to be drawn on her immediate plans for the economy "at this stage".

"What I'm determined to do is help people across this country through what will be a very difficult winter. My first preference is always not to take money off people in the first place."

08:04 PM

That's all for tonight...

Another day, plenty more drama in the Conservative leadership contest, with more unrelenting blue-on-blue attacks that beg the question of how the eventual winner will achieve party unity any time soon.

While to all intents and purposes it looks like the contest is Liz Truss's to lose, Rishi Sunak said he would "rather lose" standing by his values "than win by promising false things that I can't deliver".

Rishi Sunak - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Rishi Sunak - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Ms Truss sounded confident she can deliver on commitments to cut taxes immediately and reform the wider system during an hour-long question and answer session with GB News viewers, warning the current tax burden only increased the chances of a recession.

But in a sit-down with the BBC, the former chancellor claimed that her plans would not help the most needy and suggested her focus on cutting taxes immediately was "not the right thing to do".

Tomorrow the Telegraph hosts the sixth official leadership hustings event in Cheltenham - where our very own Camilla Tominey will interview Mr Sunak and Ms Truss, who also face questions from Telegraph subscribers. Make sure you don't miss a thing as my colleague Jack Maidment will be guiding you through every twist and turn.

07:45 PM

BBC again extends invite to Liz Truss

At the end of the Our Next Prime Minister programme, Nick Robinson said the BBC's interview to Liz Truss for a similar sit-down interview "remains open".

"She hasn't been able to find a time or date to do it," he told viewers.

Will Ms Truss take the gamble after watching Mr Sunak's showing tonight?

07:41 PM

Liz Truss: People should keep more of their own money

07:39 PM

Snap analysis: If Sunak is going down, he'll go down fighting

If Rishi Sunak, as currently expected, falls to defeat in the current Conservative leadership election, he will have certainly gone down with a fight.

Pulling no punches in his interview with Nick Robinson tonight, the former chancellor insisted he was both proud of his record in Government and unconvinced by the promises of frontrunner Liz Truss.

Mr Sunak insisted his campaign had been based around his personal values, adding: "I’d rather lose on those terms, than win by promising false things that I can’t deliver."

He said no amount of "boosterism" from Ms Truss would help Britons through the winter, topping off a day of stark warnings and rhetoric from his campaign.

In just under four weeks' time, we will find out whether Conservative members agree with Mr Sunak his message is what they "need to hear", even if it is not necessarily what they "want to hear" - or if his package of policies will be rejected outright.

07:30 PM

Look at me to lead you forward, Rishi Sunak urges Britons

Nick Robinson's final question is: "When you discover who's been running the country for the past 12 years, you are going to be really cross, aren't you?"

Mr Sunak hits back: "Well, no actually, there was lots that I was very proud of to have participated in government.

"We talked about the pandemic response, protecting over ten million jobs, saving business, ensuring that our economy remained resilient through the worst shock it had faced in 300 years.

"I'm proud of what I achieved in government, I’m not going to run away from that and actually, that's why people should now look at me as the person who can be the person to lead us forward."

07:29 PM

Sunak: I'd rather lose than promise 'false things'

Rishi Sunak says he is currently the underdog because he has decided to "tell people what I think they needed to hear, not necessarily what they wanted to hear".

"I haven’t been saying the easy things, and actually I’m prepared to lose this contest if it means that I’ve been true to my values and I’m fighting for the things that I think are right for this country," he adds.

"I'd rather lose on those terms, than win by promising false things that I can’t deliver."

On Nadhim Zahawi's suggestion he is a "gloomster" when the country needs a "booster", Mr Sunak insists: "No amount of boosterism language is going to help [viewer] Graham figure out how to get through the winter.

"What we need is someone who actually understands what’s going on and has a clear sense of how to manage our economy through what is going to be a challenging time."

07:27 PM

I couldn't defend Chris Pincher response, says Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak refuses to divulge details of "private conversations" with Boris Johnson, but suggests he did not "look him in the eye" and tell him he should go.

"I just resigned, Nick, it was clear he was not going to go, he’d made that crystal clear. "

On accusations he resigned by tweet and after others quit Government first, he hits back: "Resigning is a difficult thing to do, and I did it because it came to a point where enough was enough for me.

"I had a big difference of opinion on how to manage the economy, it’s not possible for a chancellor and prime minister not to be on the same page as that, and you’re seeing that in this leadership contest, because there are two very different approaches to how I think we should do it."

He says while the Chris Pincher affair has been "well-documented", he "wasn't happy about how that was handled" and "didn't feel I could defend that".

07:25 PM

Will Sunak be taken seriously in conflict?

Yes, because throughout my career, in politics and before, I’ve been willing to stand up for things that I believe in and fight for them.  You talked about Brexit, a lot of pressure was put on me not to support that, and I did.

When it came to locking down the country last December with Omicron, that’s what lots of people wanted to do, I stood up against the system and I said no.

Being tough and making sure that I focus on the things that matter is core to who I am.

07:24 PM

I would impose further sanctions on Russia, suggests Sunak

Rishi Sunak is asked what he will do if asked "is it really worth crashing our economy?" to stop Vladimir Putin in Ukraine.

He says Boris Johnson deserves credit for being one of the first world leaders to spot the thread posed by Putin, and Ben Wallace for being one of the first to arm Ukraine.

"I will continue with that policy, continually strengthening Ukraine, and continuing to weaken Russia. I did that as Chancellor, I put in place a set of economic sanctions, together with my colleagues from around the world, that are tightening the grip on Putin’s war machine and I would want to do more of that as prime minister.

"And actually when it comes to energy, one of the things I was working on as Chancellor, was a different way of doing the sanctions on Russia to see if we could find a way to do it, which would actually mean that we don’t have such high energy bills and could cut off the supply of money to them, and I’d like to find a way to make that work as PM."

07:22 PM

Dover queues 'obviously unacceptable' and France must improve

Rishi Sunak brands delays at Dover "obviously unacceptable" and says action is needed to ensure appropriate staffing on the French side.

"That requires the government to make sure that the French are appropriately resourcing their side of the border.

"We’re in control of our own borders, yes. I think every country should be in control of the people coming into their country, that’s what I want to make sure that we have grip on when it comes to illegal migration."

07:21 PM

Sunak: We have to take back control of migration

My biggest priority with immigration "is that we are in control of it", Rishi Sunak says.

He describes the Channel crisis as the most "pressing migration problem" Britain faces and says he has set out a detailed plan for how to grip that situation.

"That will require us to be bold and it will require us to do some difficult things legally, which I am prepared to do," he continues.

Brexit voters "want to make sure that everyone who is coming here is coming here for a reason that we want, that we’ve said yes to, and that’s the most important thing.

"But the number one priority is tackling illegal migration and I do want to make sure that we get a grip of that, and I have a plan to do that, which everyone, if they’ve got two minutes tonight can have a look online and find my plan."

07:19 PM

Rishi Sunak: I 'very clearly' believe in net zero 2050 goal

Asked about two-thirds of Conservative Party members thinking the net zero 2050 target should be relaxed or delayed, Mr Sunak insists he has said "very clearly" he believes in the objective.

"But we need to make sure that we’re getting there in a way that is bringing people along with us, so it can’t be about everyone having to give things up and everyone’s bills going up," he adds.

"We need to get there by focusing on things like innovation, by creating the new types of energy that are going to power our homes and do it in a clean way and in an affordable way."

He flags offshore wind and "technological improvements" as a way to achieve net zero.

07:15 PM

Has the NHS got all the money it needs?

"People can judge me on my record. I know the NHS is the most important public service.

"Now that everyone is contributing more, no one can say that we're not funding the NHS."

He insists the health service must be "improved - because we need to better use the resources that goes into it".

"It is right that we get the balance right. No-one can accuse me of starving the NHS for funds and I've taken a lot of flak for that."

07:14 PM

Sunak quizzed on 'deprived urban areas' comments

Rishi Sunak is asked about his comments over diverting funding away from "deprived urban areas" in lieu of the likes of leafy Tunbridge Wells.

Mr Sunak insists his cost-of-living support was "well targeted, it helped the poorest and is well designed - I think it's worth saying that. That's my track record.

"Now on that, I stand exactly by what I said. Actually there are lots of places that need to get investment, and where opportunity needs to be spread, and yes they in rural areas too, they exist in small towns too. It's not just big cities."

He insists there must be recognition for areas including the Isle of Wight, which has different needs as an island economy, and Darlington, "which is not a big city and that's what I was talking about. There will be lots of people watching this who live in big cities and they will agree with what I'm saying."

07:12 PM

Rishi Sunak tells BBC: Judge me on my record

Rishi Sunak is asked "where is the sense" in having raised National Insurance and then giving money back in cost-of-living support payments.

He says the threshold change to National Insurance "helps hardworking people the most... Do we need to raise additional money for the NHS? Yes, we do. But let's get back to the cost-of-living and point."

"Liz's tax cuts and Liz's proposals largely benefit" wealthier households, he says. Mr Sunak promises to help people by cutting VAT and adds: "People can judge me on their record - when bills were going up by around £1,200 earlier this year, I made sure the most vulnerable received around £1,200."

07:10 PM

'It's much closer to former than the latter'

Asked whether extra direct payments to households would cost either a "few billion" or more than £10billion, Rishi Sunak replied: "It's much closer to former than the latter.

"There is a huge difference because what I'm suggesting which is temporary, targeted support compared to what Liz is proposing which is £50billion of extra unfunded borrowing, not just this year, but every year.

"There is a big difference. There are two different approaches. My approach and my path is to help people with the cost-of-living and directly support them. Liz's approach is not to worry so much about [that], mortgaging, tax cuts, borrowing £50billion."

07:08 PM

Rishi Sunak says his plan is to help people in three ways

  • Help everybody: "This is something that is of such scale millions of families will struggle and it's right that everyone should receive some help. My way of doing that is cutting VAT on energy bills. That comes on top of the £550 in support hardworking families will already receive."

  • Help those on the lowest incomes: "What I suggested is we provide extra top-up payments to those very vulnerable families, and I will go further as prime minister."

  • For pensioners: "I proposed an extra payment in the winter and again that's where will go further."

07:06 PM

Rishi Sunak: I will go further than my pledges as chancellor

Rishi Sunak pledges to "go further" than what he has already announced.

"Pensioners are exactly the type of people who need extra help. It's hard for me to go into detail... In order of magnitude, it looks like the situation is around £400, give or take, worse than what I announced earlier this year.

"We have to think about we split that up, what do we do for the most vulnerable people and what we do for hardworking families."

Mr Sunak notes millions of pensioners will receive the winter fuel payment and energy bills will be discounted by £400.

07:04 PM

Truss proposals not the 'moral thing to do', says Sunak

Rishi Sunak flags as chancellor he announced support "particularly targeted at those who need our help - some help for everybody, but focused on the most vulnerable".

"Those numbers are worse than the numbers I was looking at when I was chancellor and that's why I do feel a moral responsibility... I feel that's the right priority, that's what my plan is about.

"And actually alternative proposals that don't focus on that don't feel right and I don't think they're the moral thing to do."

07:03 PM

Here we go

Nick Robinson starts with the economy, asking if he accepts that millions of viewers who have no say in the Conservative leadership face a difficult winter.

"I absolutely understand that and I know millions of people are worried about inflation, particularly the cost of their energy bills.

"What I've said if I'm prime minister I will go further in supporting those families who most need support because the situation is worse than when I announced those measures earlier this year."

06:33 PM

Sunak supporters hit back over Truss tax attacks

Jacob Young - the MP for Redcar and Cleveland who has been one of the most vocal Rishi Sunak supporters - has hit back at Liz Truss's campaign accusing him of "Gordon Brown style politics of envy".

Mr Young wrote: "Apart from [the fact] Rishi delivered the change to the NI thresholds - the single biggest tax cut in a decade, only a month ago.

"70 per cent of working people pay less tax this year thanks to Rishi. For info; he also cut taxes on fuel, on booze and on flights."

06:16 PM

And coming up next...

If it wasn't already, Rishi Sunak's interview with Nick Robinson now looks to be nothing short of incendiary in the battle for No 10.

Today alone, Mr Sunak's campaign has accused Ms Truss of "out of date" policymaking and a second "moral and political misjudgement".

In comments trailed by the BBC this evening ahead of the full broadcast at 7, the former chancellor goes further still - saying he would rather fail than "win on a false promise".

Watch this space for more, and follow along live from 7pm.

06:12 PM

Snap analysis: Truss shows why she is the frontrunner

That was an assured showing from Liz Truss in which she talked up her tax-cutting agenda and sought to put more clear blue water between her and Rishi Sunak.

The Foreign Secretary insists her "first preference" was not to "take money off people in the first place" as she warned a 70-year tax burden would only make a recession even more likely.

She was on comfortable turf when asked about Channel crossings and vowed to make the Rwanda policy work by superseding the ECHR if necessary.

Ms Truss also gave the strongest comments of the campaign to date on grooming gangs, as she suggested an inquiry into child sex abuse in Oldham and Rochdale could be the way forward.

It is clear the Foreign Secretary is meeting Tory members where they are on the issues that matter most to them - little wonder, then, she is the clear favourite to enter No 10 next month.

06:00 PM

A final question for Liz Truss

How do you feel about cats and in particular could you describe what you hope your relationship will be with Larry?

"I already have an extremely positive relationship with Larry. He frequently sidles up to me, I think I'm one of his preferred Cabinet ministers.

"One of the many reasons I want to be prime minister is I want to build on that relationship we already have."

05:59 PM

Truss asked about 'Leighxit' (Leigh breaking away from Wigan council)

Councils are about "the communities people feel part of, and the fact is there's been too much local government reform that has been top-down," states Ms Truss.

She says there have been too many centrally imposed housing targets and mayors in places they are not wanted.

"If it takes power away from people, if they feel it's being exercised by a distant authority, then obviously it just doesn't work. If I was prime minister I would appoint a local government secretary that was able to look at it."

05:57 PM

Liz Truss: I'm not a fan of taxes in general

GB News viewer Trevor asks how any Government can justify keeping VAT on gas and electric, to applause from the audience.

"Believe me, I'm not a fan of taxes in general as you can tell," says Ms Truss. "And I've already committed I will reverse the National Insurance rise, I've already committed to the temporary moratorium on the green levy.

"But of course I've said there will be a Budget coming up on an urgent basis to deal with the issues we face and all of these issues need to be under consideration. I can't make any specific promises to you... Much as I love GB News, much as I love Leigh, I can't write the budget for [the next chancellor] now.

"Getting rid of green levy will reduce bills by just as much as getting rid of VAT. What this gentleman is asking is am I willing to do more, and what I will say is at this stage is that my preference when it is affordable is to have lower taxes. What I don't agree with is taking money off people and giving it back them in benefits."

05:53 PM

Care system and support must be reviewed, says Truss

Liz Truss is asked by a carer about the "terrible injustice" facing families who take time out to care for elderly relatives or children.

She says she would have to look at how this interacted with the care system.

"Not only are you doing a great thing for society, you're also saving the Government money so we need to look at that in the round and make sure we are not penalising people who do what you do."

The carer insists it is "not really about tax" and benefits cannot be addressed "with the tax system alone... we can't do this on £70".

The Foreign Secretary responds by insisting money must go to councils to help with immediate issues "but we do need to look at the system overall to make sure the system works".

05:50 PM

Truss suggests child sex abuse inquiry 'the right way' forward

Lee Billington, from Tameside, asks for a child sexual exploitation inquiry for the residents of Oldham and Rochdale.

"I would need a bit of time to think about it, but as I've said we do need to hold to account those officials who enabled that behaviour.

"It seems to me if we are to stop this appalling abuse happening again, we need to find out the root causes and some kind of inquiry does seem like the right way to me."

05:45 PM

Liz Truss: We must value and trust frontline

Janine, a registered nurse of 31 years, notes an increase in nursing vacancies and the amount of people leaving the profession due to pension changes, stress and below-inflation pay awards.

Ms Truss thanks her for the work she does as a nurse. "What I want to do is make sure and I talked earlier about putting in the right health secretary... Really make sure that we are empowering the frontline.

"What you're talking about is stress and work pressures. Sometimes what I hear from nurses comes from frustration at central diktats and not being able to use their own judgement on the ground in the health service.

"I'm committed to the extra funding, but I wouldn't get that out of the National Insurance rise, I would get that out of general taxation. I also think that funding needs to go to social care so we're freeing up beds for the patients that need to be dealt with."

Ms Truss also raises the question of "how we can encourage some of those people" who returned to the NHS during Covid to re-enter the profession to ease the current backlog.

05:41 PM

'Very difficult to go back' on Waspi women

On inflation, Ms Truss notes the "massive shock to the global economy - it is important we get a grip on inflation, but inflation is forecast to peak this year and fall afterwards".

"We shouldn't bake that into the future, I think it's really important we get inflation down so we can help you get on the housing ladder."

Patricia, a Waspi woman, says people in her situation feel "disrespected" and "undervalued".

Will she reopen the case? Ms Truss replies: "I've had many representations in my surgery in Norfolk on this subject, and I do think in the pensions and tax system we haven't looked after women fairly and women have suffered. I do think it's a problem.

"One thing I have said I will do is review our overall tax system to make it fairer for families, to make it fairer for people who take time out of work to look after children and look after families. To be honest with you, and I have to be honest, on this specific case of the Waspi women I don't think it was handled very well at the time... but I think where we are now, it would be very difficult to go back. I'm sorry but I have to be honest about the situation."

05:35 PM

Truss: We must sort out 'appalling planning system'

Liz Truss is asked about the difficulties for young people to get on the housing ladder given rates of inflation "that make this increasingly difficult".

Ms Truss proposes Britons' rental history should contribute to people being able to get a mortgage and on the housing ladder.

"What we also need to do is sort out the appalling planning system we've got in this country."

She describes her time as a planning committee as a "dispiriting experience", urging more control to local communities with the abolition of top-down targets.

Ms Truss is told by a university student it feels like a "pipe dream" in London, and the actual mortgage deposit is a "key issue".

05:33 PM

Grooming an 'endemic problem' - must be addressed nationally

Liz Truss vows to make sure "those people who allowed" grooming to happen "are held to account - it's appalling... and this isn't just something that is going on in specific local areas, this is something that is an endemic problem that needs to be addressed on a national level."

05:32 PM

Liz Truss: We must hold councils and police to account over grooming

The police should "not be spending their time policing Twitter, they should be on the streets solving crime, and what I would do is introduce policing league tables," Liz Truss says.

She describes what has gone on with grooming gangs in Rotherham and Telford as "repulsive... and more than that I want people held to account, the council officers, the councillors and the police who didn't do anything about it".

"Until those people understand that their role in this was enabling those appalling crimes to be committed, I don't believe we will fully deal with that. And I will make sure that those people are gone after by the relevant authorities."

This draws the first big applause of the evening.

05:29 PM

Adults 'absolutely should be' allowed to speak freely online

Challenged by the same student (see 5.27pm), who has been "silenced" on campus, by the Online Safety Bill, Liz Truss maintains it must "protect the under-18s from content that is damaging".

"And I have two daughters who are aged 13 and 16 and I worry about some of the material they can access online. I also worry about the impact on social media of them before they are adults and fully formed."

"Where it's about adults being able to speak freely, they absolutely should be and it should be the same online as offline and that's a really important principle. And I will make sure the Online Safety Bill does reflect that."

Ms Truss promises essential service legislation "as soon as possible", warning of the dangers of Extinction Rebellion activists: "Of course I support free speech, that's very important, that is not the same as the endless disruption being caused by a very, very small minority."

05:27 PM

LizTruss talks tough on militant trade unions

Liz Truss is asked by a university student what she would do about academic strikes.

"Students have had a very, very raw deal during the pandemic, not getting face-to-face lectures, often having to pay for accommodation costs twice.

"And what I would do is ensuring universities are held to account for delivering that, otherwise they would have to refund students."

Ms Truss says essential service legislation would avoid disruption by "militant trade unions... who often are pretty well-paid", citing train driver salaries of more than £50,000.

"I'll do all I can to make sure universities are held to account and you get value for money on what you pay for that."

05:24 PM

Truss says her strength is getting things done

Liz Truss is asked: "The Government's a shambles, Boris seems to be demob happy... and what I would like to do is what you would say are your key strengths as a leader and how would you choose a team around you to hit the ground running as you said from September 5?"

She says: "I think my strength is getting things done, and I will get things done by hook or by crook. I will push things through Whitehall, I will make things happen.

"What I also do is I trust my team to deliver. And I think it's quite significant in this leadership election that I've been backed by a lot of my Cabinet colleagues who work with me and I've also been backed by ministers I've worked with in the Foreign Office and the Trade Department."

Ms Truss says she is not someone who "micromanages" and allows those around her to deliver "in the best way", promising a good health secretary who can "drive decisions locally". She says she would look for competence, conservative values and loyalty, and says she would definitely want Kemi Badenoch as part of her top team in Cabinet if she was elected.

05:20 PM

'Sticking plaster politics'

Liz Truss promises to build new trade opportunities with countries like India: "Those are the new trade markets of the world, in fact it's the European Union that isn't growing very fast."

Her party is accused by audience member Philip of "sticking plaster politics" over immigration, who says he hopes she can sort the issue out.

05:18 PM

Would Truss turn boats around immediately?

She says she had a "very tough conversation" with the French foreign minister two weeks ago "because the French are not putting enough staff on the border at Dover to deal with the long backlogs, and I will be very clear and robust with the French".

Ms Truss recalls getting the Northern Ireland Protocol through Whitehall and the Commons, vowing to "use the most cost-effective method of making sure people are going to Rwanda, and I know that Priti Patel has looked at this a lot at the Home Office".

"The issue is at the moment what is happening is people are getting on the phone to their lawyers when they're just about to take off and they're using the European Court of Human Rights to stop it. And that's what we need to stop."

05:16 PM

Liz Truss: I will make sure I legislate for Britain

Told more than 18,000 illegal migrants have arrived in Britain this year, Liz Truss describes what is happening in the Channel as "absolutely appalling" and "destroying lives".

"It is a huge criminal operation we need to stop and that is why I worked with Priti Patel and others on the Rwanda policy to find a safe place where people could live where if people are entering the country illegally, we can send those people to Rwanda."

Truss
Truss

Ms Truss vows to "make the Rwanda policy work by introducing a British Bill of Rights" and insisting Britain under her premiership would not be overruled by the ECHR. "We need to make sure there is somewhere for the illegal immigrants to go."

Told the French had been "uncooperative", Ms Truss replies: "You don't say."

05:13 PM

'I can't announce exactly what I will do at this stage'

Liz Truss pledges an emergency Budget in September and insists: "I can't announce exactly what I will do at this stage".

"What I'm determined to do is help people across this country through what will be a very difficult winter. My first preference is always not to take money off people in the first place."

05:10 PM

I will 'act on day one', says Liz Truss

Audience member Neil Darwish tells Liz Truss his working-class family has seen its energy bills go up from £180 to more than £300 now.

"As it stands now I'm having to look for a second job for weekends, what are you going to do to help me as a working-class person?"

Ms Truss replies: "First of all I completely understand how difficult it is and families are struggling at the moment with the cost of food, the cost of energy, which has been going up."

Truss
Truss

She pledges to reverse the National Insurance increase and place a moratorium on the green levy, promising these policies "as soon as possible" and to "act on day one".

"That's not all I'm going to do, Alastair, let me finish my answer," she continues. "I'm giving the money straight away, but what I'm about is letting people keep more of their own money and not taking it. If the only answer to everything is to whack up taxes and give out benefits, the country's going to run into trouble."

05:06 PM

What will Truss do to unleash Brexit benefits?

Ms Truss vows to "get all of the EU laws off the statute books" by the end of 2023, replacing them "with much better laws here in Britain".

She says she was in Alderley this morning and Brussels red tape currently limits investment in the pharmaceutical industry.

Pressed on education, she stresses the need for better tuition in primary schools and more schools right across the country.

"I support grammar schools, I went to a comprehensive myself in Leeds, my kids now go to grammar schools, I also want to do free schools so the opportunities are everywhere here in this town in Leigh."

She says "people will only trust us when they deliver, when they see the new jobs, the opportunities, the spades in the ground... I'm someone who is just absolutely focussed on getting things done."

05:04 PM

'This town is on its backside'

Brian says he lent his vote in 2019 because of Brexit, Boris Johnson's popularity and Jeremy Corbyn was the leader of the opposition.

"This town is on its backside, cost-of-living's going through the roof, we don't see much of [levelling up]. What are you going to do to give Leigh what you promised it?"

Ms Truss replies: "The reality is the Labour Party let down Leigh for years and years and years. You had Andy Burnham for years and years and years and what did he ever deliver for this town?"

She says much of the north-east was "let down by successive governments" and pledges more infrastructure, good railway services, delivering better broadband and doing more to attract enterprise and business.

"What I will do is keep taxes low, get the investment in, get all those post-Brexit reforms done, get all those EU laws off our statute book so we can deliver wealth and opportunity and I'm determined to deliver."

05:01 PM

A former Labour heartland

Alastair Stewart notes that Leigh was a Labour seat for almost 100 years until the 2019 general election, as he introduces tonight's live broadcast.

04:59 PM

Here we go

We will be bringing you all the latest from GB News's event with Liz Truss in Leigh on this live blog.

04:52 PM

Not long now until Truss's GB News appearance

... and there is no let up in the blue-on-blue briefing wars. After Ms Truss refused to rule out direct support payments earlier today, a spokesman for the Rishi Sunak campaign says:

This is a major u-turn on the biggest issue currently facing the country.  It’s all very well offering empty words about "doing all you can".

But there aren’t lots of different ways to act on this. Taking action means providing direct support, which Truss had previously dismissed as "handouts". 

Twice now, Truss has made a serious moral and political misjudgement on a policy affecting millions of people, after last week reversing plans to cut the pay of teachers and the armed forces outside London. Mistakes like this in Government would cost the Conservative Party the next General Election.

04:47 PM

No more 'broad brush payments', insists leading Truss ally

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader and one of Liz Truss's most high-profile supporters, appeared on LBC in the last few minutes to warn against "broad brush payments" amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Iain Duncan Smith - Dylan Martinez/Reuters
Iain Duncan Smith - Dylan Martinez/Reuters

"The government can't just go: 'Wham! Here's some money'," Sir Iain said in his remarks.

"I don't want to do any more broad brush payments to people who don't need it."

04:43 PM

Truss and Sunak fall short on cost of living, suggests Tory mayor

Tory mayor Ben Houchen has expressed his "frustration" with Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak over their plans to mitigate to the cost-of-living crisis.

Mr Houchen, the Tees Valley Mayor, has thrown his weight behind Mr Sunak but was nonetheless scathing in his assessment of their promises this afternoon.

“I don't think either candidate really fully appreciates and understands the storm that awaits them when they come in," he told PoliticsHome.

"I think for the first time certainly in my lifetime, we're going to see people later in the year who are going to think: 'I'm actually really struggling here and personally, I never thought of myself in that category'."

Mr Houchen called for an emergency Budget "by the end of September" - which a source on the Truss campaign points out is among the policies offered up by the Foreign Secretary.

04:35 PM

Policy watch: Where Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak stand on the key issues

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss continue their bid to be the next prime minister with the sixth official leadership hustings taking place in Cheltenham tomorrow.

Last night's event in Darlington did not dramatically shift the dial of this campaign, but it showed the coming weeks could still be crucial in determining its result.

Both prime ministerial hopefuls insist only their plan will avert catastrophe this winter – in the case of Ms Truss it will be through immediate tax cuts, while Mr Sunak has pledged targeted but direct support for the most vulnerable households.

​Nick Gutteridge unpacks where they stand on the big issues

04:30 PM

Another day of blue-on-blue briefings

One could be forgiven for feeling a pang of sympathy for whoever ends up having to bring the Conservative Party back together after what has been a truly leadership contest.

Mr Sunak’s team claimed that looked like "another major U-turn" as a campaign spokesman said: "Liz Truss’s policy on the number one issue facing the country is as clear as mud."

Fake Truss website
Fake Truss website

The Truss campaign proceeded to hit back: "Rishi Sunak wouldn’t know how people benefit from a tax cut because he has never cut a tax in his life. People didn’t vote for the Conservative Party to be subjected to old fashioned Gordon Brown style politics of envy."

Things were also stepped up by the Sunak campaign via a new page on a mock-up Truss website, which reads: "This policy is already out of date. Please bear with us while we work out exactly what our policy is."

04:23 PM

What's at stake for Rishi Sunak

For his part, Rishi Sunak - who has it all to do if current polls of the Tory membership are to be believed - must impress during his primetime BBC One interview with Nick Robinson.

Facing Mr Robinson this evening, Mr Sunak has been defensive of his record as chancellor throughout the campaign but can nonetheless expect to face some difficult questions.

Rishi Sunak - Joanne Coates/Bloomberg
Rishi Sunak - Joanne Coates/Bloomberg

He last night admitted he remains the outsider in the leadership campaign, but adamant he would be the only candidate who could beat Sir Keir Starmer at a general election.

Mr Sunak now needs to convince members who remain undecided about who they want to enter Downing Street after Boris Johnson and fight off criticisms that he has taken a "gloomster" view of the economy.

04:15 PM

Evening Standard backs Liz Truss

The Evening Standard this afternoon became the latest newspaper to back Liz Truss.

In an interview with the London tabloid, Ms Truss promised to do "all I can" to help households with the cost of living this winter through an emergency budget but ruled out what she described as "Gordon Brown style handouts".

"I understand how difficult the circumstances are... that people are facing pressure on food bills and fuel bills and with the cost of living," she told the newspaper in an interview. "I look at the evidence and I sort things out and that's what I've committed to doing."

Endorsing the front-runner in an editorial, the newspaper said: "In the Standard this week, Truss made her pitch to Londoners in which she stressed that levelling up 'does not mean leaving the capital behind', with a focus on growing the economy and on making our streets safer. So far, she has made the stronger case to be the better PM for London."

04:07 PM

Will Red Wall put their trust in Liz?

Liz Truss has said "things can only get better" for the Tories at the next election as the party seeks to win more 'Red Wall' seats on top of the 40 it gained back in 2019.

One such gain that formed part of Boris Johnson's landslide victory was the constituency of Leigh, a town in Wigan where Ms Truss will be questioned by a live audience in just under an hour for a special GB News broadcast.

Liz Truss - Christopher Furlong/PA Wire
Liz Truss - Christopher Furlong/PA Wire

The Foreign Secretary vowed at last night's hustings in Darlington, another 2019 Tory gain, to "work to win big" to build on Mr Johnson's success in former Labour heartlands.

But after months of scandal, polling from Redfield & Wilton suggests Labour now leads by 15 points in 'Red Wall' constituencies - a sign of the uphill task facing the next Tory PM.

04:00 PM

Good afternoon

Dominic Penna here, the Telegraph's Political Reporter guiding you through another significant evening in the Conservative leadership campaign.

Frontrunner Liz Truss will take part in an hour-long question and answer session with GB News viewers in Leigh at 5pm, moderated by veteran broadcaster Alastair Stewart.

At 7pm, Rishi Sunak sits down for a 30-minute interview on BBC One with Nick Robinson, the Today programme presenter and the channel's former political editor.

We'll bring you all the latest as it happens.