Rishi Sunak’s economic policies would be a ‘disaster’ for Britain, says Liz Truss – UK politics live | Politics

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Truss suggests Sunak’s economic policies would be ‘disaster’ for Britain

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary and Tory leadership contest, has been given an interview for Sky News during a campaign event in Sussex. Judging by what she said about Rishi Sunak’s tax policies, any hope that the campaign rhetoric may be softening is for the birds. Here are the main points.

  • Truss suggested that Sunak’s economic policies would be a “disaster” for the UK. Asked about today’s IMF world economic update, which implies it would be wrong to cut taxes now, she replied:

Let’s be clear, [Sunak’s] plan is to raise taxes. He is planning to raise taxes on corporations, putting our taxes up to the same level as France. That is going to put off people who want to invest in Britain. And I know there are masses of opportunities right across the country.

Less investment will mean fewer jobs, fewer opportunities, lower wages and lower productivity in the future. So it’s cutting off our nose to spite our face. The fact is that we promised in our manifesto not to raise national insurance. I thought it was wrong at the time to do so, and that is why I would reverse that.

I also want to put money into people’s pockets. I could quote the OECD who said that our current policy is contractionary. And what that means is it will lead to a recession. A recession would be a disaster, it would be a disaster for people who are homeowners. It would be a disaster for people who go out to work. It would be a disaster for people who run businesses.

That is why I want to keep taxes low, attract the investment, get the growth. That’s the best way to pay down our debt.

  • She dismissed the fact that there is little support amongst mainstream economists for her own economic policies. She said:

I don’t base my policies on the number of economists… The question is who is right.

The fact is we are one of the few G7 countries that are putting up taxes.

Countries like the United States, Canada, Japan have higher levels of debt than us.

They are not putting up taxes because they understand that now is the time we need to get the economic growth into our economy to avoid a recession and to make sure that we are attracting business investment and those jobs and growth for the future.

  • She said she was fed up of hearing “declinist talk” about Britain’s economic prospects.
  • She refused to respond to claims that some of her supporters, like Nadine Dorries, were engaging in unedifying attacks on Sunak. Asked specifically about Dorries, she just said she had a “fantastic range of supporters”.
  • She ducked a question about whether she got annoyed by the constant interruptions from Sunak in the debate last night. “I put my case across,” she said. And she refused to say whether she thought he was “mansplaining”. When asked about that, she replied: “I’m putting forward a positive case”.
  • She restated her threat to make it harder for unions to organise strikes, saying she would take “a tough line on trade union action that is not helping people get on in life”.
  • And she said she would ignore union threats to mobilise to block her strike reform plans. Asked about Mick Lynch, the RMT leader, saying she would face mass resistance (see 3.10pm), she replied:

I don’t take any notice of these bellicose threats. I’m on the side of the travelling public who need to get into work to do their jobs.

Liz Truss on Sky News
Liz Truss on Sky News Photograph: Sky News

The UK is likely to have the slowest growth in the G7 next year, according to the latest forecast from the International Monetary Fund. My colleague Larry Elliott has the details here.

Unite leader says Truss’s ‘madcap’ plans for unions are ‘attempt to outlaw strike action’

Overnight Liz Truss, the foreign secretary and favourite in the Tory leadership contest, announced plans that she said would “prevent trade unions from paralysing the country”. They would significantly curtail the ability of trade unions to use strike action as a means of protecting their members’ interests.

According to her news release, she would:

  • “Introduce minimum service levels on critical national infrastructure – introducing primary legislation in the first 30 days of government.”
  • “Ensure strike action has significant support from union members by raising the minimum threshold for voting in favour of strike action from 40% to 50%, and expanding this rule across all sectors.”
  • “Increase the minimum notice period for strike action from two weeks to four weeks.”
  • “Implement a cooling off period so that unions can no longer strike as many times as they like in the six month period after a ballot.”
  • “Put an end to members receiving tax free payments from trade unions on the days they are striking.”

As my colleague Jessica Elgot reports in her story on this, Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, has said the proposals would amount to “the biggest attack on trade union and civil rights since labour unions were legalised in 1871”. He said unions would fight them with mass resistance.

Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union, has this afternoon released a similar statement, saying Truss will be met by “fierce, prolonged resistance” if she tries to push through these changes. Graham said:

Let’s be clear Liz Truss’s madcap proposals are an attempt to outlaw strike action and effective trade unions.

This so-called manifesto is a declaration of war on the trade union movement and working people. In effect, it is a charter for massive social discontent.

What we have here is an ambitious politician, hawking for the votes of a tiny minority by putting the rights of all workers on the chopping block.

At the time of a cost of living crisis, where profiteering not wages is driving inflation, this would-be prime minister has instead chosen to return Britain’s workplaces to the 19th century. It’s Charles Dickens meets 2022.

Unite will not bow to threats and bullying and any attempt to make our fight for jobs, pay and conditions illegal will be met with fierce, prolonged resistance.

Sharon Graham speaking at the aDurham Miners’ Gala earlier this month.
Sharon Graham speaking at the aDurham Miners’ Gala earlier this month. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Labour claims Johnson’s account of meeting with former KGB agent Lebedev suggests he has ‘something to hide’

Labour says Boris Johnson’s account of his meeting with the former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev (see 2.19pm) suggests he has “something to hide”. This is from Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader.

Boris Johnson has finally admitted to meeting a former KGB agent while Foreign Secretary in the wake of an attack on British soil and after a crucial NATO summit but this mealy-mouthed statement raises more questions than it answers.

Keeping the British people safe should be a priority of government, but this web of murky relationships shows the Conservatives cannot be trusted with our national security …

This letter suggests the prime minister has something to hide. He has failed to answer whether a private phone call with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov had been arranged or explain the presence of an undeclared and unidentified guest.

As foreign secretary, Boris Johnson’s carelessness with words put people in danger. Every day he clings to office, there is new evidence of the risk to national security he poses.

You will notice a new feature on the blog: a panel allowing you to ping a question or a comment directly to me. This is something that we are experimenting with because, although I normally monitor the comments posted below the line for questions addressed to me directly (by searching for people who address them to Andrew), invariably some of those get missed. Hearing from readers and responding to points they raise has always been an important feature of this blog, and one that makes the journalism better, and so we are trying this feature just to see if it works better.

Johnson claims meeting with ex KGB agent Lebedev not pre-arranged, and no official business discussed ‘as far as I’m aware’

Boris Johnson has given his fullest public account to date of how he met the former KGB agent and Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev at a private party in Italy in April 2018, when Johnson was foreign secretary. The party was hosted by Lebedev’s son, Evgeny Lebedev, a friend of Johnson’s who has subsequently been given a peerage.

Johnson attended the event without the security detail that normally accompanied him as foreign secretary and, although his presence at the event with Alexander Lebedev was first reported in 2019, questions have persisted about what Johnson was up to, and whether it was appropriate. Recently Paul Caruana Galizia from Tortoise reported that Lebedev had arranged for Johnson to take a call from the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, while he was at the party, without government officials monitoring it, but that the call never happened – purportedly because Johnson overslept.

Scoop: in April 2018, Alexander Lebedev set up an unmonitored line between Boris Johnson, then foreign secretary, and Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, to discuss the Salisbury poisonings.

But the call never happened because… https://t.co/RXDih3ZcrJ

— Paul Caruana Galizia (@pcaruanagalizia) June 16, 2022

At a hearing with the Commons liaison committee earlier this month, Johnson admitted for the first time that he had met Alexander Lebedev at the party. The committee had various follow-up questions and, in a letter to it released today, Johnson has addressed them. Here are the key points.

  • Johnson defends his decision not to take his security detail with him to the Lebedev party. He says:

Officials were aware in advance that I was attending the social event. Contrary to some reports, my visit was in line with established security protocols under successive foreign secretaries. It would not have been normal practice for civil servants or security staff to have accompanied me to such a private, social occasion. I did not take ministerial papers with me.

  • He says that, as far as he is aware, he did not discuss official business with Lebedev. If he had discussed official business at a meeting like this – a social occasion where officials were not present – he would have had to report back any “significant content” to the department afterwards. He goes on: “That was not necessary in this case. As far as I am aware, no government business was discussed.” The qualifier “as far as I am aware” may be significant, and my colleague Dan Sabbagh offered one potential explanation for Johnson’s lack of awareness on this point in a story he wrote earlier this month. Dan said:

On the Saturday night, Johnson is understood to have got heavily drunk at the event, meaning that it was unlikely that much of substance was discussed between the newspaper owner and the then foreign secretary.

  • Johnson says his meeting with Alexander Lebedev at the party “was not a formal meeting, nor something that was pre-arranged”.
  • Johnson implies that his contacts with Evgeny Lebedev were no more inappropriate than Labour’s. He says it was Lord Mandelson, when he was business secretary, who allowed the Lebedevs to buy the Evening Standard in 2009. And he says the shadow cabinet had “considerable engagement” with Evgeny Lebedev in the period until 2016, when it used to disclose details of meetings with senior media figures. Since then, Labour has stopped publishing information about these meetings, “despite a commitment following the Leveson inquiry”, Johnson says.
Alexander Lebedev with his son Evgeny Lebedev (right)
Alexander Lebedev with his son Evgeny Lebedev (right). Photograph: Wenn Rights Ltd/Alamy

Contact Andrew: ask a question or share your thoughts

This is not a public comment – only the Guardian can see your message. We will monitor these messages and respond above the line throughout this live blog.

You must be 18 or over to fill in this form. We will only use this data for the purpose of improving our live blogs. For more information please see our terms of service and privacy policy. If you have something sensitive to share with us, contact the Guardian securely.

SNP accuses Sunak of using ‘warped logic’ to justify opposing second independence referendum

The SNP has accused Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor and Tory leadership candidate, of using “warped logic” to justify his decision to oppose allowing a second independence referendum. In a response to Sunak’s column in the Scottish Daily Mail (see 10.56am), Kirsten Oswald, the party’s deputy leader at Westminster, said:

Rishi Sunak’s warped logic appears to be that the people of Scotland cannot be given a say over their constitutional future because the UK is in such a mess. It is precisely because the UK is lagging behind neighbouring countries on a range of wealth and equality indicators – as demonstrated in the recent Scottish government paper – that independence for Scotland is essential.

The longer Scotland remains tied to a failing Westminster system, the poorer we will become as a result.

The Tories put the exact case that Rishi Sunak is making to the people of Scotland at every election, and they lose every election by a landslide. It’s clear that neither of the Tory candidates have put any thought into their Scotland strategy, which does not bode well for either of them becoming prime minister.

Kirsten Oswald
Kirsten Oswald. Photograph: House of Commons/PA

Tory members think Truss beat Sunak in BBC debate, and outscored him on all measures bar being best PM, poll suggests

Andrew Sparrow

Andrew Sparrow

Hi. I’m Andrew Sparrow, taking over from Rachel Hall. I’ll be here for the rest of the day, including covering the Talk TV/Sun Tory leadership debate at 6pm.

And talking of debates, here is more on the YouGov poll of Tory members who watched last night’s BBC debate. The results are good for Liz Truss – in fact, so good for her that (unless the Tory members being sampled by YouGov are seriously unrepresentative of the acting voting membership, which seems unlikely) it is increasingly hard to see how Rishi Sunak wins.

  • Conservative members think Truss performed best by 50% to 39%, the poll suggests.
  • Truss was deemed to have performed better than Sunak on all eight debate topics covered by the poll, the findings suggest. (See 12.04pm.)
  • Truss also came across as more in touch with ordinary people, likeable and trustworthy. The only measure on which Sunak did outperform Truss was looking prime ministerial – although, even on this measure, he was only ahead by 43% to 42%.

Truss came across as more in touch and trustworthy in the debate, according to Tory members

In touch with ordinary people
Truss 63% / Sunak 19%

Truss 54% / Sunak 35%

Truss 51% / Sunak 37%

Prime Ministerial
Truss 42% / Sunak 43% pic.twitter.com/eTfjC7HBwv

— YouGov (@YouGov) July 26, 2022

Although debates can change perceptions of a candidate, more often they don’t, and more often debating polling just reflects what people thought of the candidates before the debate took place. In broad terms, that seems to be the case with this poll. Last week a YouGov poll of Tory members had Truss leading Sunak by 62% to 38%.

Today’s poll results suggest Sunak may have outperformed the baseline – ie, he scored better than expected given that the audience (Tory members) favoured Truss in the first place – but not by enough to overcome his initial handicap.

The UK has imposed sanctions on Sarvar and Sanjar Ismailov, nephews of Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, who has close ties to the Kremlin.

Sarvar Ismailov was previously a director at Everton Football Club and both have significant interests in the UK, the Foreign Office said.

The leaders of the Moscow-backed breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine have also been hit with sanctions.

Foreign secretary Liz Truss said:

We will not keep quiet and watch Kremlin-appointed state actors suppress the people of Ukraine or the freedoms of their own people.

We will continue to impose harsh sanctions on those who are trying to legitimise [Vladimir] Putin’s illegal invasion until Ukraine prevails.

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