Sunak vs Truss: Readers deliver their verdicts after Telegraph hustings

Rishi Sunak at a Conservative Party leadership hustings event sponsored by The Telegraph at Cheltenham Racecourse, Thursday 11th August, 2022. - Eddie Mulholland for The Telegraph
Rishi Sunak at a Conservative Party leadership hustings event sponsored by The Telegraph at Cheltenham Racecourse, Thursday 11th August, 2022. - Eddie Mulholland for The Telegraph

As we reach the halfway point in the contest, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss went head-to-head on Thursday evening in a crunch Tory leadership hustings hosted by The Telegraph.

During the event, Rishi Sunak claimed that Liz Truss's plan for tackling the cost-of-living crisis could push "millions" of the most vulnerable people into "real destitution".

The former chancellor attacked Ms Truss's promise to prioritise tax cuts, as he stressed his priority would be to provide more direct financial support to pensioners and low earners as they struggle with rising energy costs.

However, Ms Truss defended her plan as she said it is better for people to keep more of their money in the first place, rather than having the Government take it from them in tax and then hand it back in the form of benefits.

The two candidates garnered mixed responses from Telegraph readers – continue reading for their reactions to the sixth leadership hustings event.

'Rishi Sunak was the most inspiring'

In a change of sentiment, Telegraph readers, who previously overwhelmingly backed Liz Truss, warmed to Rishi Sunak’s "inspiring" performance during the event, viewing the former chancellor as decisive and resolute. In contrast, readers judged Liz Truss’s display as safer and more underwhelming.

@Ian Lumsden:

"Having just watched both candidates, it's not too difficult to accept that Rishi Sunak was the most inspiring. Indeed, in contrast to his wooden adversary, he gave a rousing speech. I wonder how many members watched and are open-minded enough to ditch Liz Truss? She would lose to Labour in two years' time. Sunak at least gives us a chance."

@Truth Matters:

"We will need a true inspiration to get us through the next few years - someone who is on fire and whose optimism is catching. Liz Truss is not such a person. She doesn't even sound convincing when she says: ‘It's fantastic to be here.’ Rishi Sunak at least has some bounce."

@David Doig:

"I’m afraid I had to switch off Liz Truss. There was a long list of tax cuts and a long list of spending proposals without any concept of having to pay for any of them. Surely those at the husting cannot be so gullible to believe what she is saying. Apart from that, there was a long list of platitudes."

@Richard Roberts:

"Liz Truss’s yes and no round showed her to be very weak: no dramatic reform of the BBC, no cap on immigration, keeping net zero, no dramatic reduction to the size of government. She is no Tory candidate."

@PE Bouch:

"Liz Truss cannot answer a question properly. She is useless. At least Rishi Sunak is willing to tell some home truths even if people don't want to hear it."

'Liz Truss has a better chance of seeing off Labour and the Lib Dems'

However, other readers maintained that Liz Truss's steadfastness made her right for the job, as the Foreign Secretary came across as assured and more composed in the face of Rishi Sunak's "faux-enthusiasm", which deterred many readers.

@John Dee:

"I'm beginning to like Liz Truss more and more. She's a radical democrat determined to confront the anti-democratic 'establishment'. If she wins, hers will be a revolution supported by the democratic majority in the UK."

@The West is going west:

"It was a clear win for Liz Truss. Rishi Sunak isn't able to escape his record of failing on the economy - not keeping the Bank of England on the straight and narrow when it went off the rails over inflation, breaking the manifesto commitments on tax, and his socialist outlook on increased spending and handouts. He does not seem to know the importance of low tax to promote growth and investment. Comparatively, Liz Truss looked more assured and communicated well."

@Andrew Clark:

"I’m definitely with Liz Truss on this, especially about energy.

"Rishi Sunak is basically just saying he will do the same as he did during lockdown, and borrow hundreds of billions of pounds and give it in handouts. He didn't mention anything for the supply side. That's scary.

"I am also suspicious about the ‘independence’ of Central Banks. Just because they are independent of their country's governments doesn't mean they are independent of more murky and less savoury interests."

@Geoffrey Thirlby:

"Whoever wins the leadership contest, one thing is for certain - Rishi Sunak will lose the next general election. Liz Truss at least has a better chance of seeing off Labour and the Lib Dems. She has more foresight than Rishi Sunak, where he is telling the Tory members more of the same is right, where at least Liz Truss is offering a choice of something different. Time will tell if she's right."

@Rab Cha:

"Watching this debate reminded me of a typical departmental meeting. Rishi Sunak is the over-keen middle manager trying to impress the boss and climb the greasy pole. Liz Truss is the experienced old hand who just gets on with the job."

'All that's on offer is the choice between Truss’s recession or Sunak’s depression'

Meanwhile, others remained undecided, sharing their disillusionment with both of the candidates and suggesting neither of their pledges addressed the key issues facing the nation.

@Michelle Page:

"This is starting to sicken me. We are heading for the worst recession in living memory as a direct result of appalling energy policies, yet they are still committed to net zero.

"I do not want someone taking everything I've grafted for and throwing me back a few pennies of it as pocket money, yet all that seems to be on offer is the choice between Truss’s recession or Sunak’s full-on depression.

"Neither have any hope of tackling inflation until this energy mess is sorted out, and in the longer term that means restoring our energy security, which is not possible whilst we're hamstrung by ridiculous net-zero targets. In the short term, handouts are not the answer because soaring energy costs will continue to push up the price of everything else, thereby rendering each handout worthless by the time it's received."


"The Tories will be wiped out at the next election, whoever wins this contest. Both have been a part of the Government supporting inflationary policies, doing nothing about the housing crisis, nothing about sorting out Brexit and both leaving horrendous debts for our children and grandchildren despite lies they tell us."

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