Trevor Phillips Corners Minister Over 'Huge Mistake' Of The Boris Johnson And Liz Truss Eras

Transport secretary Mark Harper was scrutinised by Trevor Phillips this morning
Transport secretary Mark Harper was scrutinised by Trevor Phillips this morning Sky News

Transport secretary Mark Harper was skewered over the Conservative Party’s former leaders, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, on Sunday, as the party’s abysmal election campaign continues.

Less than three weeks until voters head to the ballot box, pollsters say the Tories are facing their lowest level of support since Theresa May’s last days.

So Sky News presenter Trevor Phillips asked the minister: “Would you now acknowledge that the Truss and Johnson years were just a huge mistake for you?”

Harper dodged answering the question directly and said he spent the whole of the summer of 2022 campaigning for Sunak to win the Tory leadership race.

He said Sunak was then proved “absolutely right” about Truss’s questionable economic strategy – alluding to her unfunded mini-budget – and said that’s why people should listen to the prime minister now.

However, Phillips said: “Unless you – at some point during this campaign – repudiate the past, then people are judging, not Rishi Sunak, but they’re judging them [Boris Johnson and Liz Truss].”

Harper replied: “What you’ve just spent there is some time looking at the past – perfectly reasonable thing to do, but this election is not about the past, it’s about the future.”

Phillips pointed out that voters judge parties on their record, which is the past.

Harper just said: ’I would pick up over the last 14 years our success over education, where we’ve actually got 90% of schools good or outstanding, and primary school readers the best in the world – that’s how you deliver on opportunity.”

He then tried to criticise Labour’s tax policies – but Phillips refused to let the point go, and said: “Voters do remember and they judge you on what you’ve done.

“You’ve said to me this morning that you’ve brought down taxes. That’s not true.”

The minister tried to discuss the Tories’ cuts to National Insurance instead, but Phillips reminded him of the impact of fiscal drag – where workers are pulled into higher tax brackets due to inflation.

The UK is now experiencing the highest tax burden for 70 years.

Phillips added: “Your problem surely is that you have been in government – not your fault, that’s a job – and people will judge you on what you’ve done.”

He noted that net migration at around a quarter of million per year when they first got into office – and that net figure has soared since.

Phillips said voters will think, “You promised something, you didn’t deliver,” – meaning they will ask: “Who are you really?’”

Harper said voters should focus on Sunak, and his migration cap. 

“This prime minister, who  one who is running for re-election, in terms of his actions that he can be judged on, has taken steps to reduce net migration,” he said.