The second day of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester did not entirely go to plan for the Tories – that is, unless the plan was to let Manchester's residents know that their city's leg of the HS2 was likely being scrapped.
Despite denials from Downing Street that any final decision hade been made on the second phase of the high-speed railway, the news dominated the afternoon.
Elsewhere, former prime minister Liz Truss drew an unusually large crowd (or perhaps her event was being held in an unusually small room), while MPs continued to distance themselves from remarks on immigration made by home secretary Suella Braverman last week.
Truss draws crowd at Tory conference as she calls for tax cuts and fracking (Eastern Daily Press)
Meanwhile, eagle-eyed pundits participated in the time-honoured conference tradition of speculating which MPs were harbouring leadership ambitions, amid continued poor polling for prime minister Rishi Sunak.
Yahoo News explains the key talking points from today's conference:
HS2 Manchester leg 'being scrapped'
Downing Street denied that a final decision had been made on the second phase of HS2, however the topic had already taken hold, overshadowing Hunt's announcements on tax cuts (spoiler: there are none) and a freeze to the expansion of the civil service.
Questioned about the future of HS2 before the news broke, Hunt had questioned why it cost so much money to build high-speed rail networks.
The chancellor told broadcasters: “What we know is for this country to succeed, we need prosperity to reach every corner of the country. We need the right infrastructure, including roads and railways.
“We’ll announce the decision on HS2 when it’s been formally made. But as chancellor, I do have to answer the question as to why it costs 10 times more to build a railway in this country than just across the Channel in France.”
No tax cuts
A blow to many of his colleagues, who are pushing for a reduction in taxes, the chancellor announced in his address to the conference that there would be no room for tax cuts in the short term.
Hunt told the conference: "Right now we’re focused on bringing down inflation.
“Nothing hurts families more when it comes to the weekly shop, heating bills or pump prices, which is why the prime minister has pledged to halve it."
“We’re getting there – it was 11% , it’s now down by 40% – the plan is working and now we must see it through, just as Margaret Thatcher did many years ago," he said.
“When we halve inflation, that’s not a 1% income tax cut, that’s a 5% boost to incomes compared to if it stayed the same.”
However, he did add that the level of tax "is too high".
Truss tells packed fringe event 'let's stop taxing and banning things'
Former prime minister Truss may have proved a divisive presence at the conference but that didn't stop her from packing out fringe event, the Great British Growth Rally.
Such was the apparent draw of Truss that people reportedly had to be turned away from the event – and this while empty seats were spotted at key conference speeches.
However, Truss's detractors have pointed out that holding an event with other politicians in a small room is enough to make anywhere look busy (and questioned whether some members of the audience were there for potential drama).
In her address, Truss said: "If we axe the tax, cut bills and build houses, we would make life better and easier for the British public, and give them the freedom to thrive.
“There is no reason we cannot go into the next election with a platform that is proudly Conservative. Let’s stop taxing and banning things, and start producing and building things.”