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Tory leadership latest: I won't 'ignore' Sturgeon - I'll take her on and beat SNP, vows Rishi Sunak

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 16/08/2022 Dominic Penna
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Rishi Sunak has pledged not to "ignore" Nicola Sturgeon but to "take her on" and beat the SNP at the ballot box.

Mr Sunak and Liz Truss are are facing questions from Conservative members north of the border at tonight's hustings in Perth.

"We have to deliver the economic growth," Mr Sunak told tonight's audience of Tory members.

"We can't trust the SNP to do it, can we? They can't even get the ferries to work. I don't want to ignore Nicola Sturgeon, I want to take her on and beat her."

They have both pledged to take a tougher line on Nicola Sturgeon's SNP government and subject it to more scrutiny.

Follow the latest developments below.

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09:06 PM

Snap analysis: Truss and Sunak play to the crowd

Seven out of 12 hustings in, it feels very much like Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are going through their greatest hits.

And both were keen to play up to the crowd in front of an audience filled with Scottish Tories deeply unhappy with the record of Nicola Sturgeon and her SNP government.

Both ruled out the prospect of another independence referendum any time soon, while Mr Sunak accused the first minister of "austerity" and Ms Truss vowed to work closely with Douglas Ross and his team at Holyrood to call out SNP shortcomings in office.

Separately, the Foreign Secretary referred to Labour's cost-of-living plans as a "sticking plaster" and insisted tax cuts should be the immediate priority in the face of the current crisis.

But to quote another Tory MP, it felt like - by and large - "nothing has changed" in the wider context of the leadership race tonight.

08:49 PM

A warmer hot mic exchange captured tonight

Colin Mackay: "Thank you very much, that was great, thank you."

Liz Truss: "Great to see you. Looking forward to our next interview!"

Warmer words than for Tom Newton Dunn the other week...

08:48 PM

If Truss becomes PM, will she give Sunak a leading Cabinet role?

Ms Truss says she has "gained quite a few Parliamentary supporters in recent days", including 11 members of the Whips' Office.

"But it is important that we unite the Conservative Party. We're all Conservatives, we all want to beat Nicola Sturgeon, we all want to beat Keir Starmer and we all want to make sure Conservatives win in Scotland as well as across the United Kingdom."

"I will want to appoint a Cabinet of all the best talents from right across the Conservative Party, including Rishi Sunak, if I am successful in this leadership election."

And that concludes tonight's hustings event.

08:46 PM

Truss asked about Northern Ireland Protocol

She says: "At the moment what the Protocol is causing is it's causing a feeling of unfairness between the two communities in Northern Ireland.

"I know there are Scottish businesses who've stopped sending goods to Northern Ireland because of the bureaucracy and the paperwork. So we need to sort that out, we need to create the green and the red channel and we also need to make sure that the people of Northern Ireland are able to benefit from the same tax rates as the people of Great Britain."

Ms Truss says it is "understandable" people do not feel "part of the United Kingdom" because of the way the Protocol is operating.

She adds she has been in talks with the DUP, and: "I expect to see things happening and the Executive reforming".

08:43 PM

Truss asked: Can we trust Truss on tax cuts?

"The answer is yes," replies the Foreign Secretary. "I've always been a low-tax Conservative."

She recalls being one of "a few people who spoke out against" the National Insurance rise in Cabinet.

"I think it's even more difficult now that people are facing such hardship across this country and it's had an impact on businesses who have had to pay extra National Insurance as well.

"Every single promise I've made as a Government minister, I have delivered... And I will sort out our taxes."

08:41 PM

Would Truss consider reinstating 0.7% of GDP spent on overseas aid?

Liz Truss says: "The answer is at present it is not economically affordable.

"I will see what the position is and when we are able to afford it we will do it and we are committed to that under legislation.

"But what I have done as Foreign Secretary is make sure that we're focusing our money on humanitarian aid. So we've put a lot of money into Ukraine to support the people who are suffering and struggling with food and with accommodation and shelter.

"We're also putting a lot of money into the Horn of Africa. And what we're doing is we're reducing the amount that we give to the multilateral organisations like the World Bank, so we can have more control over the spending and make sure it's going to those most in need."

08:37 PM

Onto audience questions for Liz Truss

Liz Truss insists she supports the triple lock which gives the highest rate for pensioners.

She vows to "grow the economy, support investment and protect jobs" for Scotland in the face of the SNP.

"People will vote for us on the basis of whether or not we deliver and I think that is absolutely important and I am somebody who does deliver.

"And I also want to work very closely with Douglas and his team in Holyrood because I think it's very important that we support each other and the Cabinet are regularly talking with the Scottish team in Parliament... That is the way we can take on Nicola Sturgeon. It is by demonstrating we're delivering as a UK Government and pointing out and Douglas and his team pointing out the failures we've seen."

08:34 PM

Truss pressed on Douglas Ross

Asked if she agrees with Jacob Rees-Mogg branding Douglas Ross a "lightweight" last year, Liz Truss says: "I certainly don't, I think Douglas Ross is a fantastic leader of the Scottish Conservatives. I'm proud that he is a friend and a colleague of mine and I want to support him to knock spots off Nicola Sturgeon."

But Ms Truss also disagrees with Mr Ross's view Boris Johnson misled Parliament and says he did a "great job" as prime minister: "He's leaving the job. What's done is done."

08:32 PM

If elected as PM, Truss would 'not allow' Indyref2

"We had a referendum in 2014, it was once-in-a-generation.

"Once-in-a-generation is not up in 2022... What's Covid got to do with it? That is a nonsense argument!" STV's Colin Mackay is booed when he suggests things have changed since the referendum.

"At the time of the 2014 referendum it was agreed by the SNP it was once-in-a-generation. What she should be doing rather than agitating referendum is dealing with the very real issues in Scotland."

Ms Truss refers to the state of the NHS and the Covid backlog in Scotland, "and that is what the Scottish Government should be dealing with".

On her changing her mind on Brexit, Ms Truss retorts: "I respected the democratic will of the people when they voted to leave the European Union."

08:29 PM

We must be bold and do things differently, says Liz Truss

Asked about her leaked comments in the Guardian, Ms Truss replies: "The point that I've always made is what we need in this country is more productivity across the country and we need more economic growth.

Liz Truss - Andy Buchanan/AFP © Andy Buchanan/AFP Liz Truss - Andy Buchanan/AFP

"The thing that we don't have enough of is capital investment. And that is why it's so important that we get businesses investing whether it's in the oil and gas industry, whether it's in the whisky industry... We haven't done enough, to be frank. And I have been openly critical of some of our economic policies, including the National Insurance rise."

Ms Truss insists Britain is in "extraordinary times" and must "be bold and do things differently."

08:28 PM

'I cannot write the next Chancellor's budget'

Liz Truss says: "I would make sure if I was prime minister that we help people as much as we are able to help them. I cannot write the next Chancellor's Budget... I can assure you that is not the way my Government would work.

"What I believe is appointing competent people to do the job who get the job done. I don't believe in a presidential No 10 where the prime minister... I've been very clear about my strategy which first of all is keeping taxes low and getting growth going, secondly looking at the supply issue and thirdly looking what else we can do.

"I cannot lay that out at this stage. I'm Foreign Secretary at this stage, I'm not in charge of the Treasury. What I have set out and I think I've been pretty clear is the principles under which my Government would operate and the principles under which I would expect my Chancellor to operate under."

08:25 PM

'Right incentives' needed on energy, urges Truss

Liz Truss insists rising energy costs are a problem for businesses as well as consumers.

"Of course I understand people's concerns. What I'm saying is what we need to do is deal with the supply issue. That is the important thing we need to deal with now."

Truss - Andy Buchanan/AFP © Andy Buchanan/AFP Truss - Andy Buchanan/AFP

She says the "right incentives" must be in place in the North Sea and it is the wrong time "to put up taxes and to put up taxes on business because we need businesses to invest in new solutions".

What help can Ms Truss give small businesses? "First of all not raising corporation tax, and reversing the National Insurance increase, will help businesses."

08:22 PM

We can't 'throw money' at energy crisis, says Liz Truss

Asked if she was being "left behind" on cost-of-living support, Liz Truss says: "First of all we need to reduce taxes, because people need to take their own money and what I think is wrong is that we take money from people in taxes and then give it back to them in benefits."

Ms Truss says the second thing on energy that must be done is a review of supply "and we should be making sure we're using those resources to help our domestic gas supply at this very difficult time when people's energy bills are highest. And that should be the best way of fixing this problem.

"Because what I worry about is putting a sticking plaster on this problem, saying yes we will find this extra money, and then being in the same position in six months' time. And what we need to do is make sure we're using those resources, making sure we're investing in nuclear, investing in renewables. Because I'm afraid this problem isn't going to go away in six months' time.

"What is not right is to simply throw money at the problem without dealing with the root cause."

08:17 PM

I've made the tough decisions on the NHS, says Sunak

"Nicola Sturgeon claims to believe in devolution. Devolution to her just means more powers to her," Mr Sunak says.

"Real devolution is down to the councils and communities in Scotland, that's what we're going to do."

On the NHS, he says it is so important "we're trusted with it... Now I can be trusted with it, I grew up in an NHS family."

As chancellor, he says he went on to do something "incredibly difficult" by creating the health and social care levy - "deliberately" on a UK-wide basis.

08:14 PM

Sunak accuses Sturgeon of imposing 'austerity'

Mr Sunak is asked about the general belief money sent from Westminster does not go where it is meant to, and if he plans to investigation.

"You're absolutely right, and I tell you why this was so frustrating to me. In the middle of the pandemic whenever I was engaging with Scottish media or civil society... The number of people who seemed to think furlough was because of Nicola Sturgeon.

"I did a spending review for the UK which sent £4.5bn of Barnett to the Scottish government and then Kate Forbes finally stood up and did her spending review and we were finally able to see the decisions they made.

"In contrast to what we were doing elsewhere public spending on the NHS in Scotland is growing a vastly lower rate than what it is on England. Then look at the rest of the public sector, agriculture, education, justice, local government. She's imposed austerity on all those parts of public services and yes, I have put an income tax cut in.

"That's in and I have given the Scottish government money to do that and they've not passed that on. We found out where it's going. You know where it's going? The welfare budget in Scotland is increasing by 50 per cent in the next five years. That is wrong, right? We are a party that believes in working hard."

Would he bypass Scotland with a spending review? "We've already started that."

08:10 PM

Sunak goes for Truss on corporation tax

"Liz's plan is the wrong one," the former chancellor insists. "Sticking with the failed experiment of the last 10 years, because investment today - in spite of this corporation tax we've had - is no higher than it was 10 years ago.

Sunak - Russell Cheyne/Reuters © Russell Cheyne/Reuters Sunak - Russell Cheyne/Reuters

"So instead we need to cut business taxes on the specific things that actually make a difference to our lives."

He promises a "better" tax system for the whole of the United Kingdom.

08:06 PM

Whitehall policy has been 'devolve and forget', says Sunak

"The civil service will always want to just devolve and forget.

"We have to make choices to want to do things differently... But holding to account requires some very practical steps, and that's why I want to take forward some policies today that hold Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP to account."

08:01 PM

Sunak challenged on Rwanda policy

One audience member calls on Rishi Sunak to "rethink your plan to send the wretched illegal immigrants to Rwanda - it is inhuman, it's inhumane and instead will you negotiate with the French to tackle the problem where it really begins, and that's with the illegal traffickers?"

Mr Sunak says: "With the greatest respect, I'm going to have to say I disagree with you and the reason for that is simple. I said earlier I stand here as a representation of our country's unbelievable compassion in welcoming people to our shores...

"But it must be done fairly, it must be done legally. And making the Rwanda policy work is an important part of getting a grip of this situation."

07:59 PM

Onto audience questions to Rishi Sunak

Mr Sunak is asked how he would change the image of the Tory Party among the public.

"Whatever happens at the end of this leadership contest, we're either going to have our third female prime minister or our second ethnic minority prime minister and it was the Conservative Party that did that.

"When it comes to how do we appeal, I think actually when you think about all the research on people, swing voters, the people in the middle, by definition they're not ideological... And what they want above anything else is a Government that works properly."

07:58 PM

Does Sunak still think he has a chance of winning?

As you can see, I'm out fighting for the things I think are right for our country, I'm out fighting for the things I believe in and I'm going to give it everything I've got until the last day of this contest. Simple as that.

07:57 PM

'We backed two freeports for Scotland'

Rishi Sunak praises the work of Douglas Ross and Alister Jack, repeating his claim he "came up with" the idea of freeports.

Asked if he blocked the Acorn carbon capture project, he says: "No, I funded carbon capture and storage with a billion pounds... No, I funded it overall for the United Kingdom. We backed two freeports for Scotland."

Sunak - Russell Cheyne/Reuters © Russell Cheyne/Reuters Sunak - Russell Cheyne/Reuters

On whether he would back the Peterhead carbon capture scheme, he says he is "always happy to look at what we're doing to support the Scottish economy because it's important that we do. But making sure we support the financial services industry is another example."

07:54 PM

Would Sunak ever allow another independence referendum?

"As I said earlier on, at a time when we've just spent 10 minutes talking about the most important issue which is the cost of living..."

Interrupted by the host, he says: "It'd be great if I could just under answer the question which you've posed, Colin, that'd be marvellous.

"I tell you what, it is quite frankly barmy for politicians to be trying to focus on another divisive, unconstitutional referendum at a time when people are worried about heating their homes. It is completely barmy."

Asked again, he replies: "Of course, the union... I can't imagine the circumstances in which I would. We live in a union which of course is there by consent and there by democracy but I can't imagine that anyone thinks now or anytime in the near future is the time to remotely focus on this."

07:49 PM

Is Rishi Sunak ruling out freezing the price cap?

"Energy companies are going to do what's in the energy companies' interests, our job is to look after the people who actually need our help."

What about for small businesses? "The things that I have done so far, for Scotland particularly, which has a very large hospitality sector... the most important way to support that industry is the tax cut that they always ask me about, which is business rates."

On the cost-of-living crisis, he says: "Not acknowledging it is not leadership."

On NHS pay, he says he would listen to the recommendations of the independent body.

07:47 PM

Rishi Sunak now facing Q&A

Asked by Colin Mackay about Labour's cost-of-living plan, Rishi Sunak says: "I don't think that's the right approach. I announced many things as Chancellor.

"What we're talking about is what's going to happen in bills in October, which we don't actually know yet because that's going to happen in a few weeks."

He says his support already announced is worth £1,200 to the poorest families "but I will go further than that" if elected.

"Through no fault of their own because we are at war with Russia with sanctions, people are having to pay more for our energy bills and I believe the right way to do that is direct support. I don't think tax cuts are the right way to do that."

He says Liz Truss would save £1,700 with her own tax cuts, but someone on minimum wage would save "around one quid a week".

07:43 PM

'You know I'm tough when I negotiate'

Liz Truss recalls her role in lifting whisky tariffs and insists she is getting the "best possible deal for our fishermen - you know that I'm tough when I negotiate with Europe".

She once again promises to legislate in British law to allow the Rwanda scheme not just to proceed, but to expand to other countries.

Ms Truss adds: "I know, and is free to say, that woman is a woman."

The Foreign Secretary vows to encourage a greater sense of pride in Britain and to deliver on the 2019 manifesto: "But most of us all, I will make sure that now and forever, our fantastic union goes from strength to strength to strength."

07:35 PM

I will never let our union family be split up, vows Liz Truss

Liz Truss recalls spending some of her "most formative years" in Scotland, going to primary school in Paisley before moving to Leeds: "To me, we're not just neighbours we're family. And I will never, ever let our family be split up."

Ms Truss praises Scottish greats including Adam Smith and JK Rowling, but accuses the SNP of "pursuing an agenda of separatism, rather than dealing with the issues they've created in the Scottish education system, in the NHS and in the Scottish transport system".

"I know that the people of Scotland deserve better and they want better. What they want are opportunities, what they want is a job, and more opportunities in life. What they want is for their children to have a good start. In short, what they want is an aspiration nation."

07:31 PM

We must demonstrate union benefits, says Truss backer

Scottish nationalists are "desperate" to fight a second referendum "in an shameless excuse to get away from their appalling record", David Mundell says.

"Liz knows it's not just about saying no another referendum now, it's about daily demonstrating the benefits of our union."

07:29 PM

Truss was a 'very rare thing' in the Treasury

David Mundell, the MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale, jokes he is not just introducing Liz Truss because he has appeared in the Italian issue of Vogue.

"Having served as Secretary of State for Scotland, I know how important it is to have a prime minister dedicated to delivering for every part of this country, no matter the challenge."

He describes Ms Truss as not just a "passionate" but also a "bold" unionist, whose upbringing in Paisley meant she grew up as a "child of the union".

"She has shown many times she has the courage of her convictions to fight that corner and in particular deliver for Scotland. In my time in the Cabinet, Liz was a very rare thing - an ally and advocate in the Treasury, repudiating the Treasury's 'devolve and forget' orthodoxy."

07:23 PM

We need compassionate conservatism, says Sunak

The cost-of-living is the priority, Rishi Sunak says in a message to Nicola Sturgeon - "not another divisive, unnecessary, unconstitutional referendum".

He pledges to cut VAT on energy bills "but go further those who need it because that's what a compassionate Conservative government should do".

In Scotland, Mr Sunak insists he wants to keep investing and support the energy sector while reforming the financial services sector to ensure continued growth.

"We have to deliver the economic growth. We can't trust the SNP to do it, can we? They can't even get the ferries to work. I don't want to ignore Nicola Sturgeon, I want to take her on and beat her."

07:20 PM

Rishi Sunak: Scotland deserves better than Sturgeon

"As you can see in this leadership decisions, I have not chosen to say the things people want to hear, I have said the things that I believe they need to hear," Mr Sunak says.

"Although that has not made my life easy, it is honest and that is what leadership is all about."

He says he wanted to end the "devolve and ignore mentality" and would call the SNP out on its record on drug and alcohol abuse "because it's not good enough and the Scottish people deserve better".

07:18 PM

Rishi Sunak gives stump speech

Rishi Sunak insists he passionately believes the best way to "transform people's lives" is ensuring the birthright of every child is a world-class education.

"And that, my friends, when you look at what's happened here is a lesson that the SNP government would do well to remember."

He stresses the need to restore trust, rebuild the economy and unite the country.

07:14 PM

We must not ignore the SNP, urges Sunak ally

Andrew Bowie quips Nicola Sturgeon is "definitely not an attention-seeker... I'll give that to Liz, she got that bit right".

But Mr Bowie insists his party and the Government cannot "ignore" the SNP: "If we do that, they win. And we cannot do that. Under Rishi's leadership, we will take them on and we will win."

07:13 PM

SNP MP: Sunak will kick 'politics of hatred' into touch

Andrew Bowie, the MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, makes a speech to introduce Rishi Sunak.

"[He is] the person, I know, who is ready to lead us forward to an historic fifth general election victory," he says. "And the person I know is ready, ready to take on Nicola Sturgeon.

"Ready to kick the SNP's politics of grievance and division and hatred we've seen outside this hall tonight into touch, and keep our United Kingdom whole."

Mr Bowie credits Mr Sunak with saving 700,000 Scottish jobs through the furlough scheme while also introducing the Eat out to Help Out and Bounce Back Loan schemes and ensuring freeports came to Scotland.

07:10 PM

Our host for the evening is here

Quite a lot of those present raise their hands when Colin Mackay, the STV political journalist, asks who has yet to make up their minds.

"There's quite a lot of you here tonight to be convinced with either of the candidates."

07:09 PM

Tory co-chairman urges Sturgeon to condemn 'vile behaviour'

07:07 PM

Here is Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader

Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are "once again attempting to divide our country with a second independence referendum", Mr Ross says.

"For those of us in this room, the choice we make is not just for ourselves... The next leader of our party must be prepared to take decisive action, the action required to help families throughout the United Kingdom through this crisis.

"And the next leader of this party must govern for the whole of the United Kingdom. Fortunately for us, Liz and Rishi are up to the challenges ahead. They... have the vision and ambition to take our party and our country forward."

Mr Ross stressed he would support either candidate in office, regardless of whether Mr Sunak or Ms Truss succeeds.

07:05 PM

'Obsessed with constitutional division'

The Tory faithful are told both of the candidates "have the potential to steer this country through these very difficult times".

By contrast, the SNP is obsessed with "constitutional division at any costs".

06:59 PM

Not long now

I'll be bringing you all the latest from tonight's hustings event in Perth, with the action itself most likely starting around 7.30pm after the buildup and speeches from leading Tory figures.

You can watch how it all unfolds at the top of this live blog.

06:53 PM

'Eggs being thrown' and 'spitting at pensioners' outside venue

A Scottish Tory MP has condemned the alleged behaviour of protesters outside tonight's hustings venue.

Andrew Bowie, the MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, wrote on Twitter: "Eggs being thrown, spitting at pensioners, the good old "Tory scum" banner out...

"Good to see Nicola Sturgeon's civic and joyous nationalism in action in Perth tonight."

06:44 PM

'More graft... it's not a popular message'

Liz Truss appeared to bemoan a "fundamental issue of British working culture" while chief secretary to the Treasury, it has emerged tonight.

In a leaked recording published by the Guardian, Ms Truss said: "It's working culture, basically. If you go to China, it's quite different, I can assure you.

"Essentially if we're going to be a richer country and a more prosperous country, that needs to change. But I don't think people are that keen to change that. So I think there's a slight thing in Britain about wanting the easy answers.

"And I think that's you know, that's my reflection on the election and what's gone before it. And the referendum, it's like we say it's all Europe that's causing all these problems, it's all these migrants causing all these problems. But actually what needs to happen is, you know, a bit more graft. It's not a popular message."

06:40 PM

Truss vows to keep Royal Navy in charge of Channel migrant patrols 

Liz Truss has vowed to keep the Royal Navy in charge of patrolling the Channel to combat illegal migrants after it was revealed that it planned to withdraw from the role next year.

Responding to The Telegraph’s disclosure of the proposed withdrawal, the Tory leadership contender and Foreign Secretary said: “It’s an absolute priority to make sure we deal with the issue of small boats and the appalling trade by people traffickers. 

"I will use every tool at my disposal if I’m selected as prime minister to make that happen."

Asked whether this would mean the Navy continuing to perform its patrolling role, she replied: "Absolutely."

Charles Hymas and Daniel Sanderson have this report

06:31 PM

There is a handful of protesters outside tonight's hustings

These include WASPI women angry at the Government over their pensions... - Jane Barlow/PA Wire © Jane Barlow/PA Wire These include WASPI women angry at the Government over their pensions... - Jane Barlow/PA Wire ...and hard-Left activists from the Socialist Worker group - Jane Barlow/PA Wire © Provided by The Telegraph ...and hard-Left activists from the Socialist Worker group - Jane Barlow/PA Wire

06:16 PM

Truss in pole position - and will want to stay there

Sometimes it can be best to say nothing at all. And that seems to be the mentality adopted by Liz Truss's campaign - which is now tending to shying away from any major announcements.

The Foreign Secretary, the clear front-runner in this leadership contest, has a comfortable double-digit polling lead with members and she has visibly enjoyed the past few weeks.

The abandonment of a regional pay boards scheme following a strong public and political backlash will only have served to further batten down the hatches among Team Truss.

With this in mind, all Ms Truss must do tonight is showcase the true blue credentials that have so endeared her to the grassroots while talking up her vision for an "aspiration nation".

06:10 PM

What's at stake for Rishi Sunak

On a day Liz Truss received yet more significant endorsements (see 6.05pm), it is hard to shake the sense this leadership contest has become something of a foregone conclusion.

Amid reports a majority of Tory members have already voted for their party’s next leader, Rishi Sunak has it all to do if he is to regain the momentum during these next three weeks.

Rishi Sunak - Jane Barlow/Pool/Getty Images © Jane Barlow/Pool/Getty Images Rishi Sunak - Jane Barlow/Pool/Getty Images

Mr Sunak put in an assured performance at the Telegraph’s own hustings in Cheltenham on Thursday, with our online poll of more than 70,000 votes declaring him the winner.

But while the former chancellor has grown into the campaign, he will need five standout performances – starting tonight – to swing this contest back in his favour.

06:05 PM

Major boost for Liz Truss as 11 whips endorse her

Liz Truss’s hopes of winning the Conservative Party leadership contest received a major boost on Tuesday when 11 Tory whips declared their support, writes Jack Maidment, our Politics Live Blog editor.

The Whips' Office had remained neutral in the race, as Ms Truss and Rishi Sunak battle to replace Boris Johnson, but the 11 MPs have now given the Foreign Secretary their public backing. 

Liz Truss raised a glass on a visit to the BenRiach Distillery in the Cairngorms earlier today - Paul Campbell/PA Wire © Paul Campbell/PA Wire Liz Truss raised a glass on a visit to the BenRiach Distillery in the Cairngorms earlier today - Paul Campbell/PA Wire

It comes less than 24 hours after Alun Cairns became the third Tory MP to switch their support from Mr Sunak to Ms Truss’s campaign.

Full story: Truss edges ever closer to No 10

06:00 PM

Good evening

Dominic Penna here, the Telegraph’s Political Reporter, taking you through the seventh official Conservative leadership hustings event.

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak face questions from Colin Mackay, the STV News political correspondent, and a sold-out audience of party members at Perth Concert Hall, some eight hours away from Westminster.

With the SNP continuing to dominate the Scottish political scene, this will be the prime ministerial hopefuls’ chance to prove to the membership they can take on Nicola Sturgeon’s administration and revive Tory hopes north of the border.

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