I want to level up everywhere, insists Rishi Sunak as he defends leaked comments at Eastbourne hustings

·32 min read
Rishi Sunak doubled down on levelling up as he addressed the party faithful in Eastbourne on Friday - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Rishi Sunak doubled down on levelling up as he addressed the party faithful in Eastbourne on Friday - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Rishi Sunak on Friday night doubled down on comments he made in a leaked video and insisted he wants to "level up everywhere".

The Tory leadership hopeful faced embarrassment earlier today when a leaked video showed him telling party members he had boosted funding for leafy countryside areas by "undoing" spending rules that "shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas".

In his remarks at a hustings event in Eastbourne, Mr Sunak insisted: "I want to level up everywhere. And as you may have seen from a video clip that's online, I don't believe that's just about our very large urban cities.

"I believe that's about investing and levelling up in small towns, in rural towns, in coastal communities like those here in the south-east."

He also sounded a series of dire warnings about his rival and leadership front-runner Liz Truss's economic policies, insisting the most important thing this winter was to help families but "some of the proposals that you've heard elsewhere are not going to do that".

09:36 PM

That's all for this week...

And breathe - that's the end of another high-octane week in the Conservative leadership contest, which has seen Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak put through their paces by hustings in Exeter, Cardiff and Sussex, in addition to a live Sky News special programme.

Ms Truss retains her clear momentum, with a lead of more than 30 points in opinion polls among the grassroots which will likely only be helped further by today's controversy around Mr Sunak's comments around local funding arrangements.

Liz Truss Tory leadership hustings - Carl Court/Getty Images
Liz Truss Tory leadership hustings - Carl Court/Getty Images

We will know exactly a month today who has been named the next Tory leader, and of course prime minister, by the 160,000-strong party faithful.

In the meantime, join us again next week for coverage of the Darlington hustings and the Telegraph's own hustings event in Cheltenham, plus all the latest twists and turns in this leadership race from Westminster and beyond.

09:29 PM

Surge in foreign medics 'a risk to the NHS'

A surge in the number of medics coming to work for the NHS from overseas poses a risk to the health service, unions have claimed.

An analysis of workforce figures found the health service may be becoming over-reliant on recruits from abroad, with figures from NHS Digital showing the share of healthcare staff recruited from overseas almost doubled between 2014 and 2021.

Several organisations responded today with fresh calls for the Government to tackle the NHS staffing crisis.

Read the full story here

09:18 PM

Andrea Leadsom: What do we want? Liz for leader

This week, Conservative members across the United Kingdom have begun to cast their votes for the next party leader, and our new prime minister, writes Andrea Leadsom.

In making this critical decision, they will be reflecting, as we all must, not just on their policies but also on their character and the values that they stand for.

Now more than ever, we need someone who embodies those core Conservative principles of aspiration, personal liberty and enterprise.

We need someone who recognises that it is only through the determination and ingenuity of people and businesses up and down the country that we will continue to prosper, someone who stands by those who work hard and do the right thing, and someone who doesn’t apologise for our values or country.

Our next prime minister must face up to the twin tasks of growing our economy and standing up to the likes of Russia and China. Liz Truss is that candidate.

Andrea Leadsom: Why we can trust in Truss

09:13 PM

No 'handouts' later this year, insists Liz Truss

Liz Truss has dismissed the idea of "handouts" to households in the face of the growing cost-of-living crisis this winter.

"Of course I will look at what more can be done," she says in a new interview with the Financial Times tonight.

"But the way I would do things is in a Conservative way of lowering the tax burden, not giving out handouts."

Elsewhere in the interview Ms Truss launched an attack on the "abacus economics" of the Treasury, claiming it was absorbed by "making sure that tax and spend add up", as she promised to set up a "strong economics unit in Number 10".

08:56 PM

In full: Tonight's leadership hustings in Eastbourne

08:55 PM

Snap analysis: Unapologetic Sunak will fight till the end

Nobody was expecting Rishi Sunak to turn up to tonight's fourth official hustings with his tail between his legs - but it was a surprise just how much he came out fighting.

Dismissing out of hand criticism of his leaked comments about the reallocation of Treasury funding away from "deprived urban areas", he instead offered wider reflections on the need to "level up everywhere" - and sounded dire warnings about Liz Truss's economic proposals.

He suggested her policies would only worsen the coming economic storm, while his rival insisted Britain must not "talk ourselves into a recession" and made the case for tax-cutting in place of prioritising damage limitation.

As both candidates once again ran through their policy and slogan 'greatest hits', Ms Truss appeared far more comfortable than during last night's Sky News special and showed why she continues to have the edge with the grassroots - but just how many Tory members have already made up their minds, and if anything can change them, remains difficult to tell.

08:48 PM

Sunak stresses passion for the environment

Rishi Sunak reveals climate change is the one aspect of his job his daughters ask him about his job.

"In the same way you've heard me talk about public finances and the borrowing and debt we leave to our kids and our grandkids I'm equally passionate about the environment that we leave them, because we're conservatives.

"We work hard to build a better future for our kids and it goes for our environment as well."

Rishi Sunak calls for the net zero target to be met in a "measured way" and not in the context of a race against another country, "and the way we're going to solve the problem is not about making people give up the things they love or putting up all their bills, it's about innovation".

08:46 PM

Vote Truss, lose the next election, suggests Sunak

How does Rishi Sunak intend to get inflation under control considering it has been fuelled by global supply chain issues, global energy costs and the war in Ukraine?

"This is the most important question that confronts our country at the moment," he responds. "The warning lights on our economy are flashing red and the root caues of this is inflation. And yes, it's primarily driven by international causes, but not exclusively, and increasingly it's becoming domestic."

The most important thing is "not to repeat the mistakes of the past and put fuel on the fire of a problem we're already suffering... it is going to mean we lose the next election," he warns.

08:43 PM

Should we leave the European Convention on Human Rights?

"We may have to, and no option should be off the table," replies Mr Sunak.

He flags his 10-point plan on how he would tackle immigration, including changing the definition of asylum and "joining up our foreign policy".

Mr Sunak adds he hopes a British Bill of Rights and other measures will work "but if they don't no option should be off the table".

08:41 PM

I got where I am by being tough, says Sunak

Rishi Sunak is told he seems "like a lovely chap... We all know that sometimes people don't do what you want them to do. How can you reassure us you will be tough when you need to be?"

He responds he had to do it in his business career and says he "didn't get there by being easy on people, I got there by being tough".

"When it came to the Brexit decision a lot of pressure was put on me to do something I didn't want to do. I toughed it out because I backed what I believe, I backed Britain and I backed Brexit."

Mr Sunak is also asked what legislation he will put in place to ensure councils and local housing associations have the best quality of social housing possible.

The former chancellor says he does not have an immediate answer and thought we were already in the process of implementing the decent homes standard.

08:39 PM

Sunak: I want to protect your green spaces

Rishi Sunak insists there "shouldn't be top-down targets imposed" on places like Wealden with areas of outstanding natural beauty.

"And the planning inspector needs to be told that that needs to be taken into account. Under my leadership and the plans I want to put in place it will be protected.

"Because I want to protect your green spaces and trust you with getting on with the job of delivering houses for your community in the way you think best."

He says developers are currently "sitting on the land" where planning permission has been approved: "Those are the plans I have outlined today, and they're going to help you."

08:34 PM

Onto Sunak's questions from the audience

Mr Sunak is told whoever gets the top job "is facing a problem as big as the Covid problem" and there are "all these basic, basic things that aren't working".

He is asked to publish data on key issues and come back each week to tell the country what he is doing to improve those things.

Mr Sunak says he remembers the Covid press conferences "vividly - and that's probably where you all first saw me, suddenly there I was".

"People say they got enormous reassurance from those press conferences... I'm happy to subject myself to all the scrutiny there is, because I think that's how you build trust. And one of the things we need to do is rebuild trust in Government... and data is a big part of it. Data is helpful, because it will help us figure out where the problems, but what you also need is courage."

08:31 PM

Sunak: We should support Britons changing jobs more and quickly

Rishi Sunak says Britons today are "much more interested in changing jobs much more frequently and that's something we should encourage and support".

He says if he was aged 22 in 2022, he would want to "do something different" and become involved with new technology and ways of doing things.

08:30 PM

I'll deliver 'radicalism and competence', pledges Sunak

Rishi Sunak promises to bring the "radicalism and competence" of the economic response to Covid to all areas of government.

He says scale-up businesses do not just need injections of finance and instead require "people... if you talk to any entrepreneur in the UK, growing a company - what do they all say? What's the limiting factor in their growth? It's getting amazing talent."

Mr Sunak speaks of the "inspiring" impact his parents have had on his community and says he wants to have a similar impact on his own constituency.

"It's an incredibly rewarding thing to be able to make a difference to the people to whom you have a responsibility to represent."

08:23 PM

Rishi Sunak: Only I can beat Starmer - and Truss's proposals won't work

The Conservative Party must appeal to people "everywhere" and Rishi Sunak insists he is the person who can do that, beating Sir Keir Starmer at the next election.

"The most important thing we need to do this winter is help people, is help families, particularly the most vulnerable families, through what is going to be a difficult period, right?

"And some of the proposals that you've heard elsewhere are not going to do that."

Mr Sunak says productivity will be key to growing the economy "and focussing on corporation tax hasn't achieved that... because it's not the right tax to focus on". Instead, business taxes must be cut "on the things that make a difference".

08:20 PM

Rishi Sunak takes to the stage

What would his election pitch be in a recession-hit Britain? "The first thing we need to do is have got through this inflation problem we have, and that's why I'm particularly worried about policies that risk making it worse and last longer.

"Because this is a problem that isn't just for this winter, it's a problem for next winter as well and beyond. If as the Bank of England said they're worried about inflation becoming embedded, there's no hope we're going to win that next election. Absolutely none, right? It's as simple as that.

"We all heard what they said yesterday. We all saw the numbers. And if we don't get a grip of this thing, and we get a grip of it fast, then we can kiss goodbye to winning that next election. The first thing to do is get a grip of inflation and get a grip of it quickly and not do things worse."

08:17 PM

The moment Liz Truss was interrupted

08:16 PM

Final questions for Liz Truss

Liz Truss says she is "fine with peaceful protest" but people camping out in Parliament Square for weeks on end is "not the same" and it must hinge on not "harming others".

"There is deliberately disruptive activity which isn't just about peaceful protest, it's about trying to disrupt democracy, it's about trying to disrupt everyday life. One person's freedom should not mean other people suffer misery."

What does she think is Rishi Sunak's greatest strength? "He's a very intelligent person, he's a very competent minister and I would be very pleased if I was successful in this contest if he would work with me in our team."

As a parent of two daughters, has she got any advice on them bringing up? "My number one piece of advice is delay as long as possible them getting a smartphone... The moment they get their hands on it, it's an absolute nightmare. I had to introduce this idea of a locked box to keep their phones in."

08:13 PM

Net zero must not clobber households and businesses, says Truss

There is applause for an audience member who says the modelling that led to Covid may have done more harm from good. Will Liz Truss "critically examine the scientific groupthink for net zero"?

"Although I am a fan of mathematics and in fact one of the things I did as education minister was create the new big Maths GCSE my daughter has just sat, I do think sometimes we use mathematical models where they're not appropriate," she replies.

"The housing algorithm is a similar case where it's a human decision whether or not to build houses in a local community. It shouldn't be down to an algorithm. So I think we've always got to be very careful to intermediate with our own thinking about what is right for our society."

Ms Truss says "I do think we went too far and I would not want to have another lockdown", promising no more under her leadership. She adds: "We do need to transition to net zero, but I want to do so in a way that doesn't clobber households and doesn't clobber businesses."

08:11 PM

'I'm not sure teenage girls are as bad as Tory MPs'

Asked how she will help children recover from lost learning during Covid, Liz Truss remembers the Government developing a large number of tutors around the country.

She also pledges to deal with the mental health issues resulting from Covid "when they should have been with their friends, they should have been at schools".

She calls for more mental health support in schools to help teachers, and says she would support them to offer more wraparound care for children as to benefit working parents.

"One of the big problems parents face is social media and kids contacting each other and winding each other up on WhatsApp... I'm not sure teenage girls are as bad as Tory MPs [on WhatsApp]."

08:08 PM

'I will continue to stand up to Putin'

Russia is concerned about Britain and the leadership it has shown "and I will continue to stand up to Putin", vows Liz Truss.

"I will put our money where our mouth is and it's important it is not just about rhetoric, it is also hard security the UK is invested in."

She would look again at the Integrated Review to look again at the threat now faced on European shores.

08:06 PM

We must curb working from home, argues Liz Truss

Liz Truss calls for money to go to councils for social care to free up space and funding for the NHS.

"I know there are issues about mileage rates in the NHS, I know there are issues about wages, but it is also about the respect people are treated with, it is about the level of centrallised bureaucracy that we experience, particularly in the NHS."

Ms Truss calls for people to be treated "with respect and to be empowered on the frontline to do their jobs".

How will the NHS be able to keep pace with the private sector with trends such as working from home? Ms Truss says such practices "worked to an extent" during Covid but she had Zoom fatigue and people must be encouraged to come back into the office "more than they do at present" for the sake of town centres and personal development in the workplace.

08:03 PM

Not another one...

A second interruption - this time from a protester who has infiltrated the Q&A session.

"Somebody obviously has a microphone who shouldn't have one," the audience is told.

Liz Truss - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Liz Truss - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Liz Truss quips: "I take it as a compliment I'm so popular with Extinction Rebllion."

08:01 PM

What can Truss do to retain the most Red Wall votes possible?

Ms Truss says: "You're right about the Red Wall voters, they were incredibly important and as someone who comes from the north of England I found it incredibly heartening that many people in places like west Yorkshire, in places like County Durham, voted for the Conservatives for the first time.

"They didn't want to be patronised, they didn't want handouts, they didn't necessarily want more Government spending. What they want is opportunities, jobs and enterprise and that's why it's so important we help industries like the steel industry become more competitive internationally... and it's also important we deliver what we said we'd deliver in 2019."

Ms Truss says it "does cost money, but there is money in the budget for it... Sometimes I'm afraid is there's too much Government bureaucracy in the way of getting things done. And what I will say to you is I don't take no for an answer from Whitehall."

07:59 PM

Onto Truss's questions from the audience

The first audience member, Tara, describes herself as "significantly impaired", she is asked if she knows what Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are and asked how her Government "will ensure we get meaningful employment".

Ms Truss says what Tara is advocating for is "incredibly important" and says that while she does not know the current PIP level, "what I want is to make it much easier for people in your position to get into jobs and also have the opportunity to set up your own businesses".

"I know the Department of Work and Pensions is working on how to make this better. And what I want to do is talk to you about how can we help deal with the issues you face in getting employment, how can we make it better in terms of the available opportunities - including being able to start up your own business, and I would want to help do that as prime minister."

07:58 PM

What is Liz Truss's favourite podcast?

Liz Truss says she enjoys a podcast called Woman With Balls: "It's with Katy Balls from the Spectator, it's nothing to do with male genitalia or anything like that, and that's very good because it has a lot of punchy women on it."

07:57 PM

Truss: We should be talking about property ownership more

We should be talking about share ownership andproperty ownership more.

Sometimes I think we've been a bit afraid to talk about Conservative principles, but we value a society where people have shares, where they own property, where they own a stake in the future.

And I think that is partly a communication problem but it's also about making life easier for retail investors, using technology better I think is important as well.

07:53 PM

Sex, drugs and... the Liberal Democrats?

Liz Truss says she will look at student debt interest and reiterates her support for fracking when communities support it.

On young people, she quips she had a "dubious past" as a teenage Liberal Democrat but said a belief in being able to "shape your own destiny" made her a Conservative.

"Some people have sex, drugs and rock and roll, I was in the Liberal Democrats," she quips.

On the economy, she says there "is not enough supply in the economy - that is why reducing things like National Insurance will help contribute to fulfiling those supply needs, likewise keeping corporation tax low will help new investment and help develop supply in the economy."

07:48 PM

'A certain kind of reisllience'

Asked about the "permanent sense of crisis" for under-35s and her pitch to them to win a fifth election, Liz Truss describes them as "natural conservatives" who are "more likely to have a side-hustle" and are "a real generation of self-starters".

She says her daughters, aged 13 and 16, have had a tough time with school closures during lockdown "but I do think it's also created a certain kind of resilience. And I think what we have to do as Conservatives is show we're on they're side."

She points to her policies of holding universities to account on face-to-face tuition and allowing young people's positive rental histories to count in their favour.

"But fundamentally what we need to do is show there is hope, and an optimistic future ahead of us. I know there are difficult 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 and do all the things we can do differently now we've left the EU."

07:45 PM

A telling show of hands

Only around a third of tonight's audience raise their hands when asked if they are "more than 90 per cent sure" who they are supporting in the leadership race.

Plenty of hands go up when the audience is also asked who has received their ballot papers.

07:42 PM

Sunak doubles down on levelling up comments

Rishi Sunak tells tonight's hustings: "I will be incredibly robust in standing up to the lefty woke culture that is trying to cancel our history, our values and indeed our women."

He takes aim at Liz Truss's policies, which he says would make the inflationary spiral worse.

Sunak - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Sunak - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

"We're going to [act] responsibly by being disciplined on financial services and our economy.

"I want to level up everywhere. And as you may have seen from a video clip that's online, I don't believe that's just about our very large urban cities. I believe that's about investing and levelling up in small towns, in rural towns, in coastal communities like those here in the south-east."

07:38 PM

Pictured: The moment a protester interrupted Liz Truss

Liz Truss interrupted by protester - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Liz Truss interrupted by protester - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

07:37 PM

Rishi Sunak: We have to start with honesty

Rishi Sunak says he was raised with a set of values that are central to his politics, at the core of which is family.

"In my family we prioritised hard work as the best way to forge ahead in life," he recalls. "I spent all my time working in [my mother's] shop... and saw the power of that small business to provide jobs and opportunity in our local community."

Mr Sunak insists on the need to restore trust, rebuild the economy and reunite the country.

"In order to restore trust we have to start with honesty," he says. "And as you can see in this leadership race I have not taken the easy path because I believe our country does face some significant challenges. And I want to be straight with everyone about those and about what is going to be needed to deal with them."

07:30 PM

Dominic Raab introduces Rishi Sunak

The Justice Secretary recalls meeting Mr Sunak when he entered Parliament back in 2015.

Mr Raab says there was "all sorts of pressure on new MPs to back Remain, but Rishi has never taken the easy option in his life" and insisted he had to stand up for his convictions.

On the Covid support he offered, Mr Raab adds: "When you needed him, Rishi was there for you.

"And I know as we face another global challenge, the fight against inflation, Rishi is the credible candidate with a credible plan to get inflation down, and to cut taxes, but when it will help, not hurt people. Because the alternative choice in this contest is unfunded tax cuts to the tune of £50billion which will just put more debt on our children's shoulders. That's not fair, that's not Conservative."

07:23 PM

Liz Truss: We must protect freedom at home and abroad

Liz Truss says she spoke to her French counterpart last week "to make it very clear that we expect French border guards to be working all hours in Dover to make sure that our border is protected".

She also promises to protect freedom and democracy "in the UK - and I think we've just seen an example, my friends, of attempts to disrupt a democratic process".

There is a round of applause for Ms Truss when she says: "I know a woman is a woman and we need to protect our single-sex spaces, our domestic violence shelters."

Ms Truss says Britain must stand up against "the identity politics that has infected our institutions... Our best days are ahead, I don't believe the narrative of decline, I don't believe the naysayers."

07:19 PM

And we're back

There was a brief pause in the hustings, but Liz Truss has turned the drama to her advantage.

"Can I just say a few words on the militant people who try and disrupt our country and try and disrupt our democratic processes and our essential services.

Truss - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Truss - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

"I would legislate immediately to make sure that we stand up to Extinction Rebellion... and I will never, ever, ever allow our democracy to be disrupted by militant activists."

07:16 PM

Hecklers interrupt Liz Truss

Liz Truss says the Conservatives must be on the side of "people who work hard and do the right thing".

She is interrupted by several hecklers - who are booed by the audience, and escorted out of the venue.

07:15 PM

Watch along at the top of this live blog

You can now watch tonight's live hustings at the top of this blog.

07:14 PM

'I want us to be an aspiration nation'

Liz Truss says she was not brought up in a traditional Conservative household, before interrupting herself with the words: "Is the mic not working?... Can you hear me now?"

Once the audio issues are resolved, Ms Truss recalls seeing "children who were let down by low expectations... [and] a poor and patchy quality of education from Leeds City Council" at her school, accusing the local authorities of being more interested in political correctness.

"That's what made me want to go into politics. Because I hated to see that waste of talent and I want our country to be successful. I want everyone, wherever they're from, whatever their background, to have those opportunities. I want us to be an aspiration nation."

07:09 PM

Breaking: Nus Ghani backs Liz Truss

Nus Ghani, the MP for Wealden, says she has been "a bit busy with the 1922 Committee" and had to be neutral for the first part of the election.

"Now I no longer have to be neutral, and many of you have asked which candidate I will back.

"Only our party, the Conservative party, could have put forward two stellar candidates, with such a wealth of experience, vision and, yes, diversity. And the choice we have to make at this election I know is momentous for our country and the future of our party.

"And I'm here to tell you I have chosen, and I have chosen to support Liz Truss."

She hails her "bold and conservative" plan, insisting she will "defend the unity of our nation and protect the peace in Northern Ireland".

07:06 PM

Jimmy McLoughlin is here

Mr McLoughlin, a former Downing Street adviser, is our presenter for tonight.

He is also the host of Jimmy's Jobs of the Future Podcast, and tells the audience in Sussex he has worked at every single level of the party.

Mr McLoughlin was in No 10 between 2016 and 2019, and became a stay-at-home father during the pandemic.

"I had very much gone from Downing Street to diapers," he quips, going on to talk about his podcast and how a strong economy "comes from private enterprise and the risks entrepeneurs are willing to take".

07:02 PM

'Good evening Eastbourne!'

"If any of you are here to see a production of Gangsta Granny, you're in the wrong theatre," grassroots activists are told.

They are also urged to "be respectful of our candidates and keep your questions positive."

06:56 PM

Five minutes to go

We will keep you in the loop with live updates as the interviews and Q&A sessions with Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss unfold.

06:51 PM

Liz Truss backed to tackle 'failed Whitehall groupthink'

Only Liz Truss can tackle Whitehall’s "failed groupthink" and kick-start economic growth, 21 current and former Conservative Cabinet ministers have said.

In a letter to The Telegraph, the signatories argued that the Foreign Secretary would break from the "tired economic managerialism of the past" if she becomes prime minister.

They also suggested she is more "in tune" with the British public than Rishi Sunak, urging colleagues and party members to unite behind her leadership bid.

The signatories include 10 sitting Cabinet ministers – a third of Boris Johnson’s current Cabinet – and 11 past Cabinet ministers including a former Tory leader.

​Ben Riley-Smith, our Political Editor, has the story

06:48 PM

Pictured: Rishi Sunak out and about down south

Dominic Raab - Peter Nicholls/Reuters
Dominic Raab - Peter Nicholls/Reuters
Rishi Sunak - Peter Nicholls/PA Wire
Rishi Sunak - Peter Nicholls/PA Wire

06:44 PM

Rishi Sunak's defence of his 'deprived urban areas' comments

The former Chancellor tells Sky:

I was making the point that deprivation exists right across our country and needs to be addressed and that's why we need to make sure our funding formulas recognise that, and people who need help and extra investment aren't just limited to big urban areas, you find them across towns and in the United Kingdom and in rural areas too.

And that was the point I was making, that our funding formulas that fail to recognise that are out of date and they needed changing.

That's work that I started doing as local government minister. And I'm actually pleased as chief secretary and chancellor to have been able to change the rules of the Treasury, so we get investment in all our regions and to create things like the Levelling Up Fund which puts investment in communities across the country.

06:41 PM

What format will tonight take?

As with the previous three leadership hustings, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak will appear separately in Eastbourne tonight rather than going head-to-head.

Proceedings will be anchored by Jimmy McLoughlin, a former Downing Street adviser, who will quiz both candidates on their competing visions for the Tory party and the country.

Audience members then have the opportunity to ask Mr Sunak and Ms Truss anything, which to date has provided some of the most illuminating moments of the campaign.

There are 20 minutes to go - and we will keep you posted as it all happens.

06:34 PM

Jacob Young gets in touch - making his case via a meme

The MP for Redcar and Cleveland has used reaction images of Drake, the popular Canadian rapper, to double down in defence of Mr Sunak's comments:

06:29 PM

'This is total b------s and you know it'

Another day, another unedifying bit of blue-on-blue mudslinding between Tory MPs on Twitter (where else?).

In response to that video of Rishi Sunak (see 6.15pm), Jake Berry - the chairman of the Northern Research Group, who is backing Liz Truss's leadership campaign - accused him of not just "boasting" but hypocrisy.

"He says one thing and does another," he wrote. "From putting up taxes to trying to block funding for our armed forces and now levelling up…"

That didn't go down all too well with Sunak backer Jacob Young, who accused Mr Berry of talking "total b------s and you know it... He said he's changed Labour's failed formulas."

"Look at where all the money went while Labour were in charge. Newcastle & Manchester on the up… while places like Teesside, Rossendale & our rural communities fell to the bottom."

06:21 PM

Analysis: So long, Sunak?

It all appeared to be going well for Rishi Sunak as of this morning.

A show of hands at last night's Sky debate saw him prove more significantly popular than Liz Truss among the audience, and many wondered if his support was being underestimated.

That all changed with a leaked video, published by the New Statesman, in which he boasted of taking money from "deprived urban areas" and giving it to places like Tunbridge Wells. That video, from a private hustings last week, has now been seen more than 3.2million times.

Unless Mr Sunak can get on the front foot at tonight's public hustings event, this could represent a highly damaging moment for his campaign. After all, Andrea Leadsom's 2016 campaign was undone by a gaffe - and all the polling has suggested the Sunak campaign was already on the back foot before today's revelations.

Time will tell but as things stand, there is much Mr Sunak must now do to get back himself back in contention.

06:15 PM

The story everyone is talking about today

Rishi Sunak told Tory members that he boosted funding for leafy countryside areas by "undoing" spending rules that "shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas", a leaked video has shown.

He said that, during his time in the Treasury, he had overturned spending formulas inherited from Labour to make sure that more cash went to rural communities.

The remarks, which he made during a private hustings event in Tunbridge Wells last Friday, will prove awkward as the country faces a cost of living crisis.

It contrasts sharply with comments he made during a Sky News debate last night, during which he said his record showed he was committed to helping the poorest in society.

Nick Gutteridge and Tony Diver have the lowdown

06:11 PM

Sturgeon seals the deal after Truss jibe

Liz Truss this week called Nicola Sturgeon an "attention-seeker" at a hustings event in Exeter - and said the First Minister was "best ignored".

Ms Sturgeon had previously not been drawn on the leadership hopfeul's comments, but has now tweeted a light-hearted riposte:

06:06 PM

Good evening

Dominic Penna here, the Telegraph's Political Reporter taking you through the fourth of 12 official Conservative leadership hustings.

Rishi Sunak will face Liz Truss on what has been a politically difficult day for the chancellor after he was criticised over comments in a leaked video.

Mr Sunak boasted he had boosted funding for leafy countryside areas by "undoing" spending rules that "shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas".

Expect that clip - and much more - to be among the topics raised at tonight's hustings in Eastbourne, Sussex. As with previous hustings, both candidates will face questions from Conservative members as well as sit-down interviews with a moderator.