Liz Truss: Let’s unleash the power of London

Liz Truss: Let’s unleash the power of London

Liz Truss has vowed to get London’s economy “firing on all cylinders” if she becomes Prime Minister next week.

She hailed the capital as key to driving the nation through the economic storm with sky-rocketing energy bills in the autumn. Amid fears that the city is losing funding due to the Government’s levelling-up agenda, she also insisted she would be “London’s strongest champion”.

As the economic clouds over Britain were darkening, Ms Truss, writing in the Standard, said: “London has long been the engine of our economy. When Londoners thrive, the rest of our United Kingdom thrives too.”

She added: “I know some of the most deprived areas in the country are found in the capital. So I will take bold action to get London’s economy firing on all cylinders through tax cuts, bold reform and removing regulation that stifles business.”

She also unleashed a stinging attack on Mayor Sadiq Khan, highlighting the level of knife crime in the capital. She slammed the “militant trade unions grinding London to a halt” and the “shocking violence” against women and girls.

Supporters of Ms Truss and Rishi Sunak, her rival to be Tory leader, were issuing last-minute appeals to Conservative members to back their candidate, with voting in the contest due to end at 5pm today.

The winner will be announced shortly after midday on Monday and is due to become Prime Minister on Tuesday. If Ms Truss becomes Britain’s 78th Prime Minister, she is expected to hit the ground running, with a wave of announcements in the first few weeks.

Ms Truss has promised to swiftly cut taxes, including reversing the National Insurance Contributions hike and the planned increase in Corporation Tax from 19 per cent to 25 per cent, as well as offering more support to households struggling with their energy bills.

Longer term, she has pledged to raise defence spending to three per cent of GDP by 2030, which the Royal United Services Institute military think tank says would mean an extra £157 billion over eight years.

Her bold and ambitious plans appear to have won over many of the Tory faithful, with polls making her the frontrunner to be the next leader. But Mr Sunak’s allies claim her economic plans are flawed and will fuel inflation and Britain’s borrowing.

With just hours to go before voting ended, they were not giving up. Kevin Hollinrake, a supporter of the former chancellor and MP for Thirsk and Malton, told Sky News: “I think he’s probably neck and neck.”

Mr Sunak received a good response at the final Tory leadership hustings in London on Wednesday but Ms Truss’s tax-cutting campaign got off to a stronger start earlier in the summer, which may ultimately prove to be key to the contest’s outcome.

The scale of victory by Ms Truss, or Mr Sunak, could influence how well the party unites after the leadership battle, which has seen barbed blue-on-blue attacks from both sides.

The new Prime Minister’s most urgent challenge will almost certainly be dealing with the cost-of-living crisis, with inflation at more than 10 per cent and millions of households facing energy bills spiralling from £1,971 to £3,549 in October.

Reports suggest Britain is set to be one of the hardest hit countries in Europe by the energy crisis, with soaring bills, which is being largely blamed on Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and his cutting back on gas supplies to the continent. Schools, pubs, restaurants and other small and medium-sized businesses are warning they could go bust because they will not be able to pay sky-high energy bills, which will also cause financial misery for many households.

Ms Truss said: “We face serious challenges in the aftermath of Covid and Putin’s awful war. But I know Britain has the strength, ingenuity and enterprise to come through the economic storm stronger. Nowhere is that clearer than in London. At this critical time, Londoners can trust me to deliver.”

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and Treasury officials have drawn up a series of options for the new Prime Minister to select from, including possibly targeted reductions in VAT and business rates to help the retail and hospitality sectors, and tax breaks for energy-intensive industries

Ms Truss has emphasised that there would be no new taxes or energy rationing if she becomes Prime Minister.

Mr Sunak has sought to portray himself as the candidate with a more realistic assessment about the way to approach the economy, vowing to get a grip on inflation before later introducing tax cuts, and not ruling out some form of energy rationing this winter.

Boris Johnson and his successor will fly to Scotland on Tuesday to go to Balmoral, rather than Buckingham Palace, for the appointment of the new Prime Minister, in a break from tradition due to concerns about the Queen’s mobility. He will formally tender his resignation and this will be followed by an audience with the new Tory leader, where she or he will be invited to form a government.

Mr Johnson’s premiership of just over three years saw some notable successes including Britain’s speedy roll-out of the Covid vaccine and its strong support for Ukraine. But it was also rocked by the partygate scandal and was ultimately brought to an end over how he handled allegations of “groping” by former Tory whip Chris Pincher.