What were the key points as the Tory leadership hustings came to a close?

·4-min read
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss during a hustings event at Wembley Arena, London (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss during a hustings event at Wembley Arena, London (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak made last-ditch pitches to Tory members in the 12th and final official leadership hustings at Wembley Arena in London.

Broadcast by LBC and hosted by Nick Ferrari, the event marked the last time the pair will face members together before voting closes on Friday.

The winner will be announced on Monday and they will not only become the new Conservative Party leader but also replace Boris Johnson as prime minister.

Here are the key points raised during the final hustings.

– A more conciliatory tone with both candidates clear on the state of play

Rishi Sunak during the hustings event at Wembley Arena, London (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak during the hustings event at Wembley Arena, London (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Rishi Sunak had a video before his arrival on stage which stressed he was the “underdog” before he then opted to heap praise on Liz Truss.

He told members: “Leadership elections tend to emphasise difference but in fact I agree with Liz on far more than we disagree on – and I don’t just mean our shared love for Whitney Houston and Taylor Swift.”

The former chancellor highlighted the pair’s work on sanctions against Russia and labelled her a “fantastic” Foreign Secretary and a “proud and passionate Conservative”.

Earlier in the campaign Mr Sunak came under fire for repeatedly talking over Ms Truss in a head-to-head television debate, and said there was “nothing Conservative” about her approach on the economy.

– Cost-of-living support will be under consideration regardless of who wins

Liz Truss during the hustings event at Wembley Arena (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Liz Truss during the hustings event at Wembley Arena (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Ms Truss refused to commit to extra support for families struggling with the cost of living earlier in the campaign, despite analysts delivering shock warnings about energy bill increases.

That stance has softened as the contest has gone on and as the warnings become increasingly dire.

On Wednesday evening, Ms Truss said her chancellor would “address the issue of household support” in a fiscal event. She also confirmed she would “absolutely be looking to act on business energy costs”.

– International diplomacy matters when it comes to the crunch of having to lead

Ms Truss set the cat among the pigeons earlier in the campaign by saying the “jury is out” on whether France’s President Emmanuel Macron is a friend or a foe.

The Foreign Secretary caused a stir for the remarks but appeared to tone down her rhetoric in the final event.

Asked if former US president Donald Trump was “friend or foe”, Ms Truss said she would not comment on “future potential presidential runners” before adding: “Both the United States and France are freedom-loving democracies and I will work with both of them, whoever the leader is.”

Pressed about whether China’s President Xi Jinping was a foe, Ms Truss said: “I am not going to use the word foe, but what I will say is I am concerned about China’s assertiveness.”

– Enthusiasm versus realism?

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss during the last hustings event (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss during the last hustings event (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Ms Truss has adopted an upbeat tone throughout the campaign on her hopes to turn around the economic situation while acknowledging the difficulties ahead.

The Foreign Secretary’s direct answer to rule out energy rationing this winter fits in with her theme and optimism. But such a pledge will be severely tested due to the volatility in the energy market as the war in Ukraine rages on.

Mr Sunak by contrast used the final event to maintain his theme of trying not to sugar-coat the challenges ahead.

Asked about energy rationing, the former chancellor said: “We shouldn’t rule anything out because the challenges that we face with this crisis are significant.”

In a clear nod to the differences about the need for tax cuts, Ms Truss ruled out any new taxes and stressed her desire to cut them.

Mr Sunak insisted leadership “starts by being straight with the country about the economic challenges”, adding: “I’ve not chosen to say the things that people may want to hear, I’ve said the things I believe our country needs to hear.”

The so-called ‘war on woke’ and identity matters

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss disagree on taxes (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss disagree on taxes (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

As much as both candidates said they wanted to focus on the cost of living, the criticisms of “woke” language, the apparent influence of “the left” and the issue of identity were repeatedly embraced as topics of discussion.

Answers on the topics also received strong responses from the members and look set to be a feature of the next administration.

On Wednesday, Ms Truss again was asked if a trans woman is a woman.

She replied: “No. I just said earlier a woman is a woman.

“I believe in treating transgender people with respect, I think that’s important, but we should not confuse that with being clear in our language – some of the nonsense that has emanated, such as chest feeding, which we hear from the National Health Service, we’ve got to be talking in language that is clear and people understand across the country.”