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Truss rejects ‘Gordon Brown economics’ as Tory candidates address cost of living

Liz Truss during a hustings event in Darlington, County Durham, as part of the campaign to be leader of the Conservative Party and the next prime minister. Picture date: Tuesday August 9, 2022.
Liz Truss during a hustings event in Darlington, County Durham, as part of the campaign to be leader of the Conservative Party and the next prime minister. Picture date: Tuesday August 9, 2022.

Liz Truss has said she “fundamentally” disagrees with “putting up taxes and then also giving out benefits” to help with the rising cost of living.

The Tory leadership contender lambasted cash handouts as “Gordon Brown economics” at a hustings debate in Darlington, while her opponent Rishi Sunak said he would target pensioners and the most vulnerable for support with rising fuel bills.

The two contenders vying to be the next prime minister have faced growing calls to spell out how they would help with the energy price spike after consultancy Cornwall Insight forecast that average bills could hit about £3,582 in October, up from £1,971 today, before topping £4,200 in the new year.

Asked about what she would do to deal with rising fuel prices, Ms Truss told the hustings audience: “We are facing great difficulties with energy. I understand people are struggling with their bills on fuel and food but the first thing we should do as Conservatives is help people have more of their own money.

Liz Truss during a hustings event in Darlington, County Durham, as part of the campaign to be leader of the Conservative Party and the next prime minister
Liz Truss during a hustings event in Darlington, County Durham (Danny Lawson/PA)

“What I don’t support is taking money off people in tax and then giving it back to them in handouts. That to me is Gordon Brown economics.

“Frankly we had years of that under Labour and what we got was a slow-growth economy and we didn’t get the opportunities, we didn’t get the enterprise, we didn’t get the new jobs in places like Darlington, which is one of the reasons people voted Conservative.”

She added: “What I fundamentally don’t agree with is putting up taxes and then also giving out benefits. I think that is the wrong approach.”

Mr Sunak meanwhile suggested he would not offer further cash payments to every household and would instead target support at the most vulnerable.

Referring to earlier support he signed off on as chancellor, he said: “I want to go further than I did previously because the situation is worse. It’s right that we target that on the people who most need our help.”

Mr Sunak added: “The only way to help them is with direct support because tax cuts alone are not much good if you’re a pensioner who is not earning any extra money.

Rishi Sunak during a hustings event in Darlington, County Durham, as part of the campaign to be leader of the Conservative Party and the next prime minister
Rishi Sunak at the hustings event in Darlington (Danny Lawson/PA)

“They are not much good if you are working hard on the national living wage, because Liz’s tax cut is worth about a quid a week for that person, it’s worth zero for a pensioner. That’s not right.”

Asked if he is planning support similar to earlier plans of providing £400 to every household regardless of their income, the former chancellor said: “No, because I think what we need to do is target our support for the most vulnerable.”

Mr Sunak also said he would be happy to get in a room with Ms Truss and Boris Johnson to talk about future cost-of-living support prior to the result of the leadership ballot.

It follows Tony Danker, director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), saying on Tuesday that the Prime Minister and the two contenders to replace him should “come together to agree a common pledge to support people and help quell fears”.

Labour former prime minister Gordon Brown also made a similar call for common ground between the candidates on Monday.