Politics Live: Boris Johnson set to deliver speech on energy security; Last full day of leadership contest between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss; Sir Keir Starmer says he wants to make Brexit work | Politics News


It’s finish. The marathon program of hustings, that is.

After 12 two-hour sessions over six weeks, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak will face questions from party members – some adoring, some hesitant – no more.

It represents 24 hours of speeches, questioning, cheering and occasional heckling that some Tory MPs fear has damaged the party so badly with blue-on-blue attacks that they have given Labor a 13 point lead in some opinion polls.

The leadership tour which started in Leeds at the end of July and reached its grand finale in a packed and noisy Wembley Arena is over. Voting ends at 5pm on Friday and the new leader will be crowned at a ceremony in central London next Monday at noon.

Here, it must be said, there was less acrimony and less spades than in previous hustings. There was a mood, it seemed, that the time had come for Tories to put an end to the bitterness and bad blood and come together once a new leader was elected.

Rishi Sunak was magnanimous about Liz Truss, describing her as a “fantastic foreign minister” and a “proud and compassionate conservative”.

However, Liz Truss was not as complimentary about her opponent and a promised cordial handshake at the end of the evening and the completion of the recruiting process never materialized.

They briefly appeared on stage together, but stood awkwardly side by side and seemed to avoid eye contact.

The evening here began with Sir Iain Duncan Smith introducing Mrs Truss. No surprise there. Then, in an unexpected moment, it was Michael Gove – a late supporter of the former chancellor – who introduced Mr Sunak.

Last weekend, Mr Gove broke his silence on the leadership campaign in a Times article in which he called Ms Truss’ economic policy a “vacation from reality”.

He was less vitriolic here and also caused a stir by praising Boris Johnson. Surprisingly, after what the incumbent Prime Minister’s supporters would claim was serial disloyalty to Mr Johnson by Mr Gove dating back to 2016, when he sabotaged his ally Vote Leave’s leadership bid.

Mr Gove also urged the party to unite behind whoever wins. Some Gove critics in the party might think that’s a bit rich coming from him.

Is Mr Gove planning an exit from Westminster? The Lib Dems are certainly preparing for a by-election in his constituency of Surrey Heath and he would surely be tempted by the editorial staff of The Times if it were offered to him.

As for the juicy news nuggets during this husting finale, Liz Truss said she’s open to considering lifting some freeway speed limits. Perhaps surprisingly, she hasn’t vowed to curb a proposed switch from British-built Jaguars to German Audis for senior ministers.

Ms Truss also pledged not to impose new taxes when host Nick Ferrari launched George Bush’s slogan ‘Read my lips, no new taxes’, while Rishi Sunak said he was proud of introduce an exceptional tax on energy companies.

Ms Truss ruled out energy rationing, which is under threat in some European countries, but Mr Sunak did not.

In this room, Mr. Sunak was well ahead of Ms. Truss in loud and enthusiastic support. Are the pollsters, bookmakers and pundits wrong, then? Sunak supporters claimed after the roundups ended that up to a third of Tory members lived in London and the South East.

This audience was younger and more ethnically diverse than some of those in the English counties. Metropolitan? Certainly.

Nick Ferrari made a big point that the hustings were taking place at Wembley, the home of English football, and wondered if underdog Mr Sunak would make a comeback in the 90th minute.

It would be a huge upset if he did. But Mr Sunak gave a solid performance here, fighting for every vote until the very end.

But unless there is a shocking result next Monday, his spirited efforts here – and the vocal support from many inside Wembley Arena – have probably come too late.


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