The Rishi Sunak campaign is now formally accusing Liz Truss of doing a U-turn following her concession that she is considering offering people payments to help them with energy costs. (See 10.11am, 11.40am and 3.45pm). Last week she ruled out giving people “handouts”. A spokesperson for the Sunak campaign said:
This is a major U-turn on the biggest issue currently facing the country.
It’s all very well offering empty words about ‘doing all you can’. But there aren’t lots of different ways to act on this. Taking action means providing direct support, which Truss had previously dismissed as ‘handouts’.
Twice now, Truss has made a serious moral and political misjudgment on a policy affecting millions of people, after last week reversing plans to cut the pay of teachers and the armed forces outside London. Mistakes like this in government would cost the Conservative party the next general election.
The Guardian’s Peter Walker on Sunak’s interview.
Jeremy Corbyn has said he stands by statements he made on the supply of western weapons to Ukraine.
In an interview with Al Mayadeen in July he said “pouring arms in” would “prolong and exaggerate” the war, saying more effort should be placed on securing a ceasefire.
Al Mayadeen is a Middle Eastern TV channel based in Lebanon seen as being sympathetic to the Syrian government and Hezbollah, PA reports.
On Wednesday, the former Labour leader spoke to LBC’s Iain Dale at an event during the Edinburgh Fringe.
The Islington North MP said his removal from Labour’s parliamentary group was “completely wrong” and also described the Aukus defence deal between the UK, US and Australia as “dangerous”. Dale said asked him about his comments on Al Mayadeen and whether he wanted the supply of weapons to Ukraine to stop.
Corbyn said: “I think the words I used was, the only policy being followed by most of the west is to pour arms into the Ukraine.
“The point I was making was there is nobody as far as I can see pushing enough to get some kind of ceasefire.”
Robinson concludes the programme by saying Liz Truss is still considering an interview request from the programme and has been unable to fit in a slot in her schedule thus far.
Truss had declined to be interviewed by Andrew Neil on Channel 4 last month.
Robinson ends with a question about the series of emergencies the country is embroiled in after 12 years of Conservative rule.
Sunak said: “Well, no actually, there was lots that I was very proud of to have participated in government.
“We talked about the pandemic response, protecting over 10M jobs, saving business, ensuring that our economy remained resilient through the worst shock it had faced in 300 years.
“I’m proud of what I achieved in government, I’m not going to run away from that and actually, that’s why people should now look at me as the person who can be the person to lead us forward.
“I’ve got the experience to handle difficult things. They know that because they’ve seen it.”
On accusations that he is a “gloomster”, Sunak responds: “Nick, we started this programme, you put a graphic up there that talked about energy bills going up to almost £4,000.
“No amount of boosterism language is going to help Graham figure out how to get through the winter.
“What we need is someone who actually understands what’s going on, has got a clear sense of how to manage our economy through what is going to be a challenging time.
“Focus on getting the help to people like Graham that we’ve talked about and then bring this country to a place where it can look forward to a much brighter future.
“That’s what I can do and no amount of starry-eyed boosterism is going to solve any of the emergencies that we’ve just talked about.”
On his position as the underdog with three weeks to go, Sunak says: “I knew what I was doing when I got into this and I was going to tell people what I think they needed to hear, not necessarily what they wanted to hear.
“As I said, I would rather lose having fought for the things that I passionately believe are right for our country and being true to my values than win on a false promise.”
On criticism that he resigned by tweet after thinking about it for months, Sunak replies: “No actually resigning is a difficult thing to do, and I did it because it came to a point where enough was enough for me.
“I had a big difference of opinion on how to manage the economy,
it’s not possible for a chancellor and prime minister not to be on the same page as that, and you’re seeing that in this leadership contest, because there are two very different approaches to how I think we should do it.”
On whether he told Boris Johnson he was no longer fit to be PM, Sunak said: “No. I just resigned, Nick, it was clear he was not going to go, he’d made that crystal clear.”
He added: “Well I’ve had many conversations with the prime minister over the time that I’ve been in office with him, I’m sure, I know we talked about lots of things, right, and I’m not going to sit here and talk to you about private conversations I have, that wouldn’t be right…”
On a perceived lack of experience for the job as PM and the ability to look “at a dictator in the eye”, Sunak said: “Yes, because throughout my career, in politics and before, I’ve been willing to stand up for things that I believe in and fight for them.
“You talked about Brexit, a lot of pressure was put on me not to support that, and I did. When it came to locking down the country last December with omicron, that’s what lots of people wanted to do, I stood up against the system and I said no.
When it comes to wanting to reform the NHS, I’m prepared to have some difficult conversations; so yes, being tough and making sure that I focus on the things that matter is core to who I am and as chancellor I designed a very stringent packet of economic sanctions to do exactly that with Putin.”
On Ukraine, Sunak says the defence secretary deserves credit for being one of the first to make sure that we provide arms to Ukraine.
“I will continue with that policy, continually strengthening Ukraine, and continuing to weaken Russia. I did that as chancellor, I put in place a set of economic sanctions, together with my colleagues from around the world, that are tightening the grip on Putin’s war machine and I would want to do more of that as prime minister, and actually when it comes to energy, one of the things I was working on as chancellor, was a different way of doing the sanctions on Russia to see if we could find a way to do it, which would actually mean that we don’t have such high energy bills and could cut off the supply of money to them, and I’d like to find a way to make that work as PM.”
On the long queues at Dover last month, Sunak says on the French side appropriate staff need to be in place, which did not appear to be the case then.
On the previous Tory promise of bringing net migration down to tens of thousands, Sunak dodges the question and says the most pressing problem is illegal immigrants coming across the Channel.
On climate change and the target of the UK reaching net zero by 2050, Sunak says he believes in the target and wants to focus on innovation and how we power our homes.