Tory hustings: Sunak says Truss’s tax cut ‘worthless’ in helping poorest during cost of living crisis


ishi Sunak said Liz Truss’s proposed tax cut was “worth zero,” to low earners and retirees in the cost of living crisis at the latest Tory leadership hustings.

His plan to spend a projected bill of billions on helping the poorest was attacked by the more pro-tax Ms Truss as “Gordon Brown economics”. He suggested her approach would lead to the Conservative Party’s capitulation at the next election.

The candidates gave marked different approaches on how to best help those in need at a conference in Darlington on Monday night. Earlier in the day, it was widely reported that energy bills could rise to £4,400 a year for the average UK household from £1,900.

Ms Truss said: “I want to make sure we are reducing taxes… I would reverse the national insurance rise and have a temporary moratorium on the green energy levy. I would keep corporation tax low, we cannot tax our way to growth.”

Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss speaks during a hustings event, part of the Conservative Party leadership campaign, in Darlington


She added: “What I don’t support is taking money in tax and giving it to them in handouts, that to me is Gordon Brown economics.”

“The only way to help people is with direct support,” Mr Sunak said, “Tax cuts alone are not much good… I cannot see how you can do it on tax cuts.”

The former chancellor began his interview with host Tom Newton Dunn by denying his chances of winning the Conservative leadership race were over, despite polls suggesting he is down two votes to one against current favourite Ms Truss.

“I think it is wrong that she has ruled out direct support to families,” he added. “We as a Conservative government have an obligation to help those most vulnerable.”

When asked if he would again provide help of around £400 per household, Mr Sunak said it would be better to “target support” vulnerable households and cut VAT on energy bills.

“[There] should not be massive tax cuts for the most wealthy,” he said. “The British people would not forgive us (for not supporting the poorest) we would get hammered at an election.”

He said he would find the money through “efficiency savings,” much as he did to fund efforts to support Ukraine.

Tory members will vote over the coming weeks, with Boris Johnson’s replacement set to be decided by September 5.

Mr Johnson’s own legacy was also debated; when Mr Sunak was asked if the current PM’s undoing was his own fault or somebody else’s, he replied “his own”. He also said “integrity” was something he wanted to “bring back” while also saying he would serve under a Ms Truss administration. Later on, Mr Sunak said he did not “wield the dagger” that sparked the prime minister’s downfall.

The hustings, which was broadcast on The Sun’s YouTube channel, did not see the candidates square off but rather face the presenter’s questions and those from the audience.

The location also presented a chance for both to double down on pledges to support the northern economy and hold onto formerly Labour-held seats, such as Darlington.

Both candidates played up their northern connections and also sought to establish an anti-woke stance.

Ms Truss, who previously has faced criticism for talking down her own comprehensive school in Leeds, said from the outset that she saw “too many children let down,” at her old secondary. She attacked the “lefty” council for prioritising political correctness over English and mathematics, adding she wanted “everyone to succeed”.

Mr Sunak said: “I will be incredibly robust in standing up against that lefty woke culture that is trying to cancel our history, our values and indeed our women.”

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