Liz Truss: Rishi Sunak facing call to de-select former PM over appearance on 'hateful platform'

Rishi Sunak has been urged to de-select Liz Truss as a Tory election candidate after she appeared on a platform founded by a YouTuber who made comments about raping a Labour MP.

Labour's Jess Phillips has written to the prime minister saying that Carl Benjamin, founder of the Lotus Eaters, "has despicable views about violence against women".

Mr Benjamin claimed he was being "attacked and misrepresented" and said his previous comments were a "joke".

Mr Benjamin wrote on Twitter in 2016 that he "wouldn't even rape" Ms Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley.

In 2019, when he was standing to be a UKIP MEP, he refused to apologise and later went on to say: "I've been in a lot of trouble for my hardline stance of not even raping her. I suppose with enough pressure I might cave. But let's be honest, nobody's got that much beer."

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In her letter, Ms Phillips said: "The impact men like Benjamin have on politics cannot be understated. Men like Benjamin make female MPs live in fear, while discouraging women from standing in future, weakening our democracy in the process."

Mr Benjamin hit back on X: "It's hard to believe that parliamentarians live in fear of YouTubers making jokes, when the apparently real threat of terrorism looms over their head."

Ms Truss will appear on the Lotus Eaters on Wednesday.

The interview was conducted by host Connor Tomlinson, a Conservative party member, and was carried out before the general election was called.

He accused Ms Truss's opponents of trying to "smear" her by brandishing the platform as far-right, and said she has "nothing to apologise for".

A source close to Ms Truss said she has "no relationship with Carl Benjamin".

However, Ms Phillips said Mr Sunak has a responsibility to "uphold high standards among your MPs and candidates" and should bar Ms Truss from standing in the election.

She called the Lotus Eaters a "far-right" and "hateful" platform and claimed that "as well as these misogynistic views" Mr Benjamin had promoted conspiracy theories about immigration.

She added: "It is clear that anyone willing to appear on this hateful platform is not suitable to be a candidate for any political party.

"If you have any decency, you will deselect Liz Truss as Conservative candidate for South West Norfolk. Anything less than this will show how weak you are and how far the Conservative Party has sunk."

Sky News has contacted the Conservative Party, Number 10, Ms Truss and Lotus Eaters for a comment.

Benjamin 'attacked and misrepresented'

Mr Benjamin responded to the letter on X, claiming he was being "attacked and misrepresented".

In a lengthy statement, he claimed to have "a long-standing record of activism to promote awareness of violence against women and girls where the politically correct consensus least likes to look" and he takes the subject "very seriously".

He also rejected what he described as "misinformation" about his political opinions included in Ms Phillips' letter and denied that Lotus Eaters was a "hateful" platform.

He said: "We are a popular and mainstream conservative publication, which is well-liked and well-respected by our peers, because of the work we do with them. It is natural that a conservative such as Liz Truss would want to speak to us to help facilitate an interesting exchange of ideas and for her to speak directly to the conservative base without fear."

Ms Phillips said she did not take lightly action that "will bring abuse and threat to my door" but "I have to stand up for what I think is right".

Ms Truss is fighting to retain her seat in South West Norfolk, which she has held since 2010.

Her 49 days as prime minister - the shortest ever - ended after her package of unfunded tax cuts culminated with the Bank of England having to prevent pension markets from collapsing.

Since stepping down from the top job she has made numerous controversial media appearances.

In February she was accused of "propagating conspiracy theories' after using a talk at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in the US to claim her efforts to reform the economy were "sabotaged" by the "administrative state and the deep state".

She has also been criticised for taking part in an interview with Donald Trump's controversial former strategist Steve Bannon and remained silent as he praised former leader of the far-right English Defence League Tommy Robinson as a "hero".