Liz Truss has used her latest message to Tory party membership to warn against talking Britain into recession, a day after the Bank of England forecast for the economy will soon suffer a five-quarter recession.
Speaking at Tory party leadership parties in Eastbourne, Truss suggested her plans for immediate tax cuts if she becomes prime minister could stave off recession.
She said: “I know there are tough forecasts out there, but forecasts are not destiny. And what we shouldn’t be doing is talking ourselves into a recession. We should be keeping taxes low.”
She added: “We can create the British version of Silicon Valley. We can create real opportunities.”
During a performance that was twice interrupted by climate activistsTruss also expressed support for fracking, as well as caution about the government’s net-zero target and a crackdown on protests by Extinction Rebellion.
To cheers from the crowd, she said: “I want us to coat parts of the country where there is local support so we can get the energy security we need.”
She was urged by an audience member to “examine the scientific group-think for net zero”. Truss replied: “We need to move to net zero, but I want to do it in a way that doesn’t gobble up households and doesn’t gobble up businesses. That’s why I would have an immediate moratorium on the green energy tax, while we look at better ways to deliver net zero using private sector innovation and technology to deliver.”
After being lambasted by climate activists, Truss said: “I want to make sure that militant activists like Extinction Rebellion are not able to disrupt ordinary people who work hard.”
Rishi Sunak was more enthusiastic about net zero, but also cautious. He said again that the only political issue his two young daughters asked him about was the environment. The former chancellor said: “I will not let them down, first of all. You have heard me speak passionately about the public finances, the borrowing and the debt we are leaving for our children and our grandchildren. I am equally passionate about the environment, we live in, because we are Conservatives.”
He added: “I believe in our net zero goal. I want us to get there in a measured way because there’s no point in us going harder and faster to get there than any other country because that will just impoverish both U.S.”
On the economy, the former chancellor said that unless inflation is under control, “we can kiss goodbye to winning the next election”.
Asked by host and former Downing Street adviser Jimmy McLoughlin what his pitch to win a fifth term would be, Sunak said his first priority would be tackling inflation.
He said: “As the Bank of England said they are worried about inflation being embedded, then there is no hope of us winning the next election. Absolutely none.
He added: “If we don’t get a hold of this thing and get a hold of it quickly, then we can kiss goodbye to winning the next election. So the first thing we can do to put ourselves in a position to win is to come through inflation and get through it quickly and not make things worse.”
Truss, the front-runner in the race, was asked to identify Sunak’s key strengths. She replied: “He is a very intelligent person. He is a very competent minister. And I would be very happy, if I am successful, for him to join me on our team.”
Asked the same question of Truss, Sunak said: “Liz is great at explaining conservative values.”
Truss described her membership of the Liberal Democrats as a “teenage accident”, adding: “Some people you know, sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. I was in the Liberal Democrats.”
And she praised the outgoing prime minister, saying: “Boris Johnson is hugely respected in Ukraine. He has a street and a croissant named after him, and I don’t think many international leaders have achieved that.”