On Wednesday, August 10, 2022, Liz Truss appeared on GB News’s The People’s Forum to answer questions from residents of Leigh in Greater Manchester about her proposed policies:

The veteran newsreader and broadcaster Alistair Stewart ably moderated proceedings, allowing the audience to ask questions then reading viewers’ questions and asking a few himself:

The programme was an hour long:

Brian Sheeran was first up to the microphone. Leigh, established in 1885, is a Red Wall constituency. They elected their first Conservative MP in 2019: James Grundy.

Sheeran asked why the people of Leigh should trust the Conservatives. Truss said that voters no longer could rely on Labour, because Labour never did anything for them:

She said that she would make sure that she started local projects as soon as possible, because people only trust a political party once they see tangible signs of improvements being made.

She also pledged to boost local businesses by rescinding EU laws that are still on the books post-Brexit.

She said that she would place a moratorium on the green levy on fuel and prepare an emergency budget as one of her first tasks as Prime Minister.

Not everything would happen straightaway. At least one measure would have to wait until April 2023 to be implemented because the Finance Act would require amending, a procedure that would require approval in both Houses of Parliament.

Another man asked what help Truss would give to working class families now, because the price of home energy has become crippling. He has had to take on a weekend job just to make ends meet:

Truss said that ‘from day one’, people would be able to keep more of what they earn.

He said that he needs help now, not at some point in the future. She said that she would look into all the options as soon as she becomes Prime Minister, should that happen.

Philip Orr asked about illegal immigration and was remarkably well informed on the statistics of our population increase over the past several years:

Truss summarised the situation of people trafficking across the Channel in dinghies. Criminal gangs are making big money. She hopes to make the Rwanda deportation policy work through Dominic Raab’s proposed Bill of Rights. She also hopes to expand the number of countries who could take in these illegal migrants because they need more workers.

Orr suggested revoking French fishing licences if the French authorities continue to do nothing to stop the dinghies coming across the Channel.

In response, Truss said that she had had a ‘tough’ conversation with the French two weeks ago and that she would continue to be ‘robust’ in her negotiations. She cited the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill as proof that she could get things done.

She said that these migrants are in league with their lawyers before they make the trip over, enabling the lawyers to use ECHR laws to stop their deportation from the UK.

Finally, Orr asked why the UK couldn’t use other countries’ ports instead of being so reliant on France.

Orr called all of this ‘sticking plaster politics’, because nothing so far has been successful.

Jane Knight was the next to ask a question. She noted that the Government was not working. She asked what Truss’s key strengths were and how she hoped to build a good Cabinet that would be ready to run on Day One:

Truss said that she has established a record of being able to get things done and has received backing from those Cabinet ministers, past and present, who have worked with her.

She said that she would be looking for three things in her Cabinet ministers: competence, the ability to stand up to civil servants in Whitehall and loyalty to her rather than to the media.

Knight said ‘yes’ to those but said there should be a certain amount of ‘risk taking’ and asked whether Kemi Badenoch, immensely popular among the people during her leadership campaign, would be able to have a Cabinet post, such as, perhaps, Foreign Secretary, Truss’s current position:

Guido Fawkes has the dialogue (emphases his):

Jane Knight: I would like you to give some opportunity to maybe people that you might not know as well at the moment… certainly somebody who fired the imagination of the public was Kemi Badenoch and I’d really like to see her given a meaty role.

Truss: Do you have any ideas about what that role should be?

Knight: Oh well, Foreign Secretary! There might be a role going there!

Truss: Look, I don’t want to get ahead of myself and this leadership campaign is still going on, but I can tell you that I will make sure the best players in the Conservative Party are on the pitch if I’m elected leader… Kemi – I’ve worked with her as Women & Equalities Minister – we’ve taken on a lot of the agenda of people who are trying to deny that women are women and so on, so I think she’s absolutely brilliant and I would definitely want her as part of my team if I’m successful.

Knight also asked whether the Cabinet would be ‘leaner, leaner, leaner‘, nodding for affirmation as she spoke those words.

Truss said that she could promise a ‘leaner No. 10’, which ‘has become a bit too presidential’ and she repeated her pledge to find a good post for Badenoch.

Knight said:

Ohhh, good answer.

Alistair Stewart brought up strikes at universities which prevent students from getting a full education. Some of these strikes are about changes in terms to lecturers’ and professors’ pensions because some universities took a ‘pension holiday’, not paying in continually to the pension pot. Other strikes, however, took place during the pandemic over health concerns. Either way, students are out of pocket, to the tune of £9,000 per year. They do not receive refunds for strike action.

Theo Murphin (?), a student, asked about this situation:

Truss said that she would hold universities to account to ensure that students get what they pay for.

In other strike areas, such as railways, she would ensure that industrial action would not overrun the network completely.

Theo also asked about the Online Safety Bill and the coming restrictions on freedom of speech. Truss said that her major focus of the bill would be to ensure that minors are not adversely affected by what they see online. With regard to adults, she said that one should be able to say the same things online as well as offline.

On the subject of strikes, Janice, a Daily Mail reader, wrote in with a question about the disruption of this year’s strikes in various sectors across the country. Stewart asked her question for her.

Truss said she would legislate ‘as soon as possible’ to ensure that a minimum level of service is provided. She added that she is also concerned about activist organisations and mentioned Extinction Rebellion. She said that she would also take steps to ensure that they are dealt with, too, so as to not disrupt the daily circulation of people and goods.

Stewart brought up child grooming gangs (30:39), which seem to be everywhere in England now. He called Paul Eckersley to the microphone. Eckersley asked Truss what she planned to do about these gangs and ‘bring criminals to justice’:

Truss said that police should not be spending time patrolling tweets. Instead, she said, they should be fighting crime. She said that she wants to introduce police league tables on various forces’ results.

Returning to the grooming gangs, she said that what has been going on has been ‘absolutely repulsive’. She said that she wanted gang members to be held to account, ‘but more than that’ also the locals in authority — police, councillors and so forth — who did not do anything to stop them.

She received a round of applause for her answer.

Stewart then turned the subject to housing, especially getting young people on the housing ladder.

Jessica Buckthorpe, a cheerful and polite university student, asked whether Truss had any proposals to help young people in her situation, a student who works but cannot put together enough savings:

Truss proposes using young people’s rental history of paying in full and on time to go on their mortgage applications, helping them to get a mortgage more easily.

Truss added that she also wanted to give more planning control to individual communities to plan for the housing they need. It is not unusual for young people to move away from where they grew up because they cannot afford the house prices.

Buckthorpe said that, while she appreciated these ideas, she said that the enormous actual mortgage deposit required is a ‘pipe dream’ not just for herself but for many other young adults.

Truss replied that using rental history would play an important part in enabling young adults to get a mortgage.

Truss said that it was important to keep in mind that our current inflationary period is temporary:

… we should not bake that into the future.

Stewart looked at Buckthorpe for her reaction:

There’s a smile there.

A beaming Buckthorpe said:

Thank you very much.

The subject of war widows’ pensions came up, especially those widows of veterans who subsequently remarried and lost their first husbands’ pensions through subsequent rule changes. They are known as the WASPIs.

Stewart called on one woman who has a problem with her pension, Patricia Morgan, to ask her question. See the 2:40 point in this video:

Morgan said that, while she does not think she is getting the right amount of state pension because of a change in retirement dates, she cannot help but notice that money is going everywhere else, from coronavirus programmes to the war in Ukraine.

Truss said that she has met many such women in her own Norfolk constituency. The matter has also been addressed — unsatisfactorily, to many women — in Parliament. Truss said that she does not think that women have been looked after fairly in this regard. However, she said it would be very difficult to revisit the circumstances of the WASPIs and she apologised for that. She did, however, pledge to look at the tax system and see how it has an unfair impact on women in changing family circumstances.

Morgan politely countered by bringing up a parliamentary ombudsman’s report which said that ‘maladministration’ had taken place. Truss said that she did not want to make promises that she could not keep. She could only address the future.

Stewart brought up the war widows’ issue. Truss said she had already looked at that when she was in the Treasury. This issue, she said, she would look at again in more detail. Some 300+ women are affected.

Stewart then discussed the problems in the NHS.

Janine Ronaldson was the next person to approach the mic. She is a registered nurse with 31 years’ experience, who works as a community nurse. She asked what Truss would do about the fact that nurses’ salaries and benefits have decreased in recent years, resulting in many of them leaving the profession:

Truss said that nurses on the front line should be able to make more of their own decisions. She added that additional funding could come from existing funds and that the National Insurance tax rise was unnecessary. Some of this money can also go into social care, enabling hospital beds to be freed up for the elderly to go into a care home upon release from hospital. Currently, some patients have to stay in hospital because there is no satisfactory home situation for them to return to.

This, coupled with a huge post-pandemic backlog, is becoming a national problem.

Truss also pledged to look at the pension situation and talk to individuals to assess their concerns. She said that her incoming Health Secretary would also have to be committed to this.

Ronaldson said that it has been very difficult for her to see nurses leaving the profession and having to take on their workloads.

Stewart then asked for final questions on the topics that had been addressed.

One question came from Councillor Liam Billington, who asked about the child grooming problem. He said that Greater Manchester Council keep voting down motions to hold a public inquiry into what happened in Oldham. Truss responded that she would look into it and get back to him.

Johnny Riley (?) was next. He said that he had to give up his job to become a full-time carer for his wife. He receives only £70 a week from the Government in carer’s allowance. He now has to use his life’s savings to help them get by.

Truss thanked him for his devotion to his wife, who has cystic fibrosis. She said that her pledged review of the tax system should reveal how it works with the benefits system. She does not people like Johnny to be penalised for doing the right thing.

He said that he has paid into the system, so it’s not about paying tax; it’s about benefits, the least paid of all of them. Truss said that the whole system has to work, which is why she wants to look into it. She said she does not have a detailed answer. He said it was no wonder, because there has never been a detailed answer:

All we’re asking for is a fair crack at the whip. 

Trevor Bell asked how the Government can retain VAT on gas and electricity, when that is an EU law that should have gone once we left the European Union:

It was a Brexit promise … It should go now.

Truss reiterated that she would abolish the National Insurance tax rise and impose a temporary moratorium on the green energy levy. She also repeated that she would have an emergency budget early this autumn.

She said that the 70-year tax high is unacceptable but, right now, she cannot be more specific because the leadership contest is not yet over.

Truss said that getting rid of the green levy would save as much as getting rid of VAT.

The penultimate question came from Shelley Guest, who asked if Leigh could break away from Wigan Council and set up its own in order to use the tax receipts that it generates for its own needs (58:08). This is known as Lexit (!), something that Leigh’s MP, James Grundy, also supports.

The room burst into applause.

Stewart told Truss that, while this seems like a local concern, it is also one that many other communities in England face.

Guest is concerned about rising council tax were Leigh to become independent.

Truss herself was once a local councillor. She appreciated Leigh’s wish for independence and has spoken with James Grundy about it. She said she would consult the people of Leigh and appoint a Local Government Secretary to look into the matter with Grundy.

On a much lighter note, the final question came from a viewer who wanted to know about Truss’s relationship with cats. Larry is the Downing Street moggie, and Liz remembered Palmerston, the Foreign Office’s cat.

She replied that Larry frequently sidles up to her at Cabinet meetings, so she would like to develop her friendship with him. As for Palmerston, she said he left the Foreign Office during the pandemic and is now:

working from home. It’s a true story!

She got a huge round of applause.

Some undecided voters there told Michelle Dewberry, who came on next with her show, that they really liked what Truss said.

They were a polite but hard-hitting group of real people who spoke frankly.

One wonders if Rishi Sunak would have the bottle to sit in a studio with their like. Would he or wouldn’t he?

GB News has extended him an invitation to participate in his own People’s Forum, so we’ll see.

Speaking of Sunak, that day, a few other developments occurred.

Guido reported:

    • Away from the glare of the GB News cameras, Liz’s team spent the day tearing chunks out of Camp Rishi on her behalf. After Rishi attacked Liz’s cost of living plan for being “clear as mud“, Team Truss went nuclear: “Rishi Sunak wouldn’t know how people benefit from a tax cut because he has never cut a tax in his life.
      People didn’t vote for the Conservative Party to be subjected to old fashioned Gordon Brown style politics of envy.” Team Rishi inevitably responded in kind – see below…
    • The mudslinging didn’t stop there: Kwasi Kwarteng and Simon Clarke have an article in the Telegraph today in which they claim Rishi “dug his heels in” as Chancellor over post-Brexit reforms, particularly on plans to ditch the EU’s Solvency II rule and reform the NI Protocol. You’d be forgiven for forgetting they’re all in the same party. Team Rishi insist the claims in the article are “categorically untrue”, and Sunak backed a muscular approach to Brussels all along…
    • Rishi didn’t take kindly to Team Liz’s attacks – it turns out being compared to Gordon Brown doesn’t exactly flatter him. His team countered by claiming Liz’s backtrack on regional pay boards last week was “a serious moral and political misjudgement affecting millions of people“. This is the same Liz Truss whom Rishi has claimed he’ll serve under in any Cabinet role.
    • His campaign also sent out a dubious press release claiming he’d cut taxes “16 times during and following the pandemic“. One of those ‘cuts’ was reducing the Universal Credit taper rate, another is the promise to cut income tax by 1p in 2024 which, last time Guido checked, is two years away…

Instead of being with an average group of taxpayers, he chose to be interviewed one-on-one by the BBC’s Nick Robinson:

    • He also promised to do more for households this winter beyond the package already announced, although didn’t go into specific details on the basis that it was simply too early. Although when asked whether it would cost “a few billion” or more than £10 billion, he said it would be “closer to the former than the latter”…

He gave Robinson an indication that he might lose the leadership contest:

    • He came the closest yet to admitting the race may well be over, claiming he’d always “stay true to [his] values” and he would rather lose than “win on a false promise”.

It’s interesting that Sunak chooses television formats that suit him rather than the electorate, even if, at present, they are Conservative Party members.

Sunak’s non-participation in public fora other than Party hustings and closed interviews tells us something about the man.

Next week I will post on The Telegraph‘s hustings, held on Thursday, August 11.