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Sunak U-turns on VAT after presenter’s collapse cancels Truss debate – follow live

Sunak U-turns on VAT after presenter’s collapse cancels Truss debate - follow live
The Sun’s Showdown: The Fight for No 10 was abruptly taken off air after the debate’s moderator fainted

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Truss and Sunak TalkTV debate suddenly taken off air after big crash

Rishi Sunak is accused of making a U-turn as he promised to temporarily scrap VAT on all domestic fuel if he becomes prime minister.

The move, pitched as a part of the former chancellor’s “winter plan” to tackle inflation and the cost of living crisis, is being slammed as Mr Sunak had voted against it earlier this year saying it would “disproportionately benefit wealthier households”.

While shadow treasury minister Pat McFadden accused him of “acting as his own personal rebuttal unit”, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney said “this sounds like another Sunak Swindle”.

It comes after the second live head-to-head between Liz Truss and Mr Sunak was cancelled after the debate’s moderator fainted mid-broadcast. The two Tory candidates had been sparring for 30 minutes when there was a loud crash in the studio with The Sun’s Showdown: The Fight for No 10 being abruptly taken off air.

TalkTV, the broadcaster hosting Tuesday night’s debate, confirmed that presenter Kate McCann had fainted.

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Truss would win general election as she’s ‘a politician many people don’t know’, ally suggests

Asked why he thought Liz Truss would win the next general election, Kwasi Kwarteng – a supporter of hers – said that the foreign secretary was “a politician that many people don’t know”.

The business secretary told LBC that Ms Truss has a “very wide appeal” and claimed that she “had a fresh, optimistic, dynamic approach” during the head-to-head TV debates this week.

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Sunak tax U-turn and debate conduct show he is ‘under a lot of pressure’, Truss ally claims

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng – a senior ally of Liz Truss – has suggested that Rishi Sunak’s U-turn on cutting VAT on energy bills and his handling of the TV debates were a sign he is under pressure in the leadership race.

“I think he’s under a lot of pressure,” Mr Kwarteng told Times Radio. “That’s why we see all these statements: he was the person who said the VAT cut would disproportionately benefit rich families and now he’s saying that a VAT cut on energy bills is the right thing.

“He was saying that tax cuts were a fairytale, now he is proposing an unfunded tax cut. There comes a time in campaigns when people are under a lot of pressure, he clearly felt under a lot of pressure in the debate and he wanted to get out on the front foot and interrupt Liz.

“I think that was the wrong look for him, I think that was the wrong action, but I can understand why he did that.”

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Truss allies back report claiming she urged Cummings to scrap hundreds of ‘woke’ civil service roles

A special adviser to Liz Truss urged Dominic Cummings to scrap hundreds of “woke” civil service posts back in 2020, the Daily Telegraph has claimed.

As the foreign secretary seeks to outmanouevre her rival Rishi Sunak in securing the votes of the heavily right-wing Tory selectorate, who appear likely to keep a keen watch on culture war issues, a report in the newspaper cited a leaked document as showing that, when Ms Truss was international trade secretary, her office called for the abolition of diversity and inclusion roles in Whitehall.

She signed off on correspondence to Boris Johnson’s chief adviser criticising the “risk-averse” civil service for its “liberal groupthink”, according to the paper – which reported her allies as claiming that Ms Truss would act in a similar way if chosen by Tory members to be prime minister.

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Labour frontbencher defies Starmer to join picket line

Labour’s shadow transport minister Sam Tarry has defied orders from Sir Keir Starmer not to join the picket line alongside striking rail workers.

Calling the ongoing row “the biggest industrial dispute in the rail industry in nearly 100 years”, he added: “If we don’t make a stand today, people’s lives could be lost.

“Some of the lowest paid workers are on strike today in the rail industry, safety-critical workers – workers that make sure our railways get people to work and do so safely.”

He said statements by transport secretary Grant Shapps and other ministers blaming rail workers for the dispute were “a load of nonsense”.

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Think tank urges government to cut red tape in housing, childcare and energy

The next prime minister should work to cut red tape in housing, childcare and energy to counter spiralling costs for household, the Institute of Economic Affairs has said.

Calling the cash handouts “act as mere sticking plasters” and drive up inflation, the think tank in its new report argued that the government should focus on deregulation.

The IEA said that childcare costs, which in the UK have risen to one of the highest levels in the developed world, could be cut by around 40 per cent – or more than £300 per child per month – by relaxing staff-to-children ratios and other rules.

Read more here:

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Truss orders police to cut murders by 20% in policy dismissed as ‘incoherent’

Liz Truss wants to impose targets on police to cut murders by one fifth if she becomes prime minister under a policy lambasted as “incoherent”.

The Tory leadership candidate told forces she would expect them to cut homicide, serious violence and “neighbourhood crime” by 20 per cent before the next general election.

Ms Truss said her government would publish “league tables” to show how each of the 43 forces in England and Wales are performing against national trends, and that the chief constables of those deemed to be underperforming would have to explain themselves to ministers.

Her campaign team also took a swipe at chief constables, sending reporters a quote claiming that they were “not cracking down as hard as they should be”, threatening to deepen a rift that has grown during Priti Patel’s time as home secretary.

Our home affairs editor Lizzie Dearden has more:

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ICYMI: Conservative leadership TV debate pulled off air after presenter faints

A live debate featuring Conservative leadership candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss on news channel TalkTV was abruptly taken off air after the show’s moderator collapsed.

Viewers heard a loud crash and saw a visibly concerned Ms Truss mouth the words “Oh my God” before stepping away from the podium where she had been speaking. Just seconds later, the show disappeared from screens.

TalkTV owners News UK later confirmed that presenter Kate McCann, the station’s political editor, had fainted.

In a statement, the company added: “Although she is fine, the medical advice was that we shouldn’t continue with the debate. We apologise to our viewers and listeners.”

The break in transmission came just over half an hour into the hour-long grilling of Mr Sunak and Ms Truss by Ms McCann and readers of The Sun newspaper.

Read more in this joint report from Andrew Woodcock and Ashley Cowburn:

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Protocol has created ‘feast or famine’ economy in Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Protocol has created a “feast or famine” economy in the region with some businesses struggling while others thrive, a parliamentary report has found.

A House of Lords committee examining the post-Brexit Irish Sea trading arrangements found that companies involved in trade with the rest of the UK were being hampered by added red tape whereas those more reliant on doing business with Ireland and the wider EU were benefiting.

The committee stressed an urgent need to resolve the issues created by the protocol and called on the EU and UK to reengage in negotiations.

The committee’s report comes amid a breakdown in relations between London and Brussels over the UK Government’s controversial plan to pass legislation at Westminster that would empower ministers to unilaterally rip up the bulk of the protocol.

More in this report:

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Pause deductions to benefits to give ‘breathing space’ on cost of living – MPs

The government must pause benefits deductions to give struggling households “much-needed breathing space” during the cost-of-living crisis, MPs have said.

Automatic payments to the government and others, taken out of people’s benefits, should be halted as claimants battle soaring costs, the Work and Pensions Committee said.

Deductions are taken by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) from people’s benefits to pay off debts, which could include advance payments of benefits, and previous errors or overpayments of benefits by the government.

For example, new Universal Credit claimants face a five-week wait while their claim is assessed before receiving their first payment.

Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has more:

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Government’s rail cuts ‘letting down North and Midlands’ as MPs urge rethink

MPs have urged the government to reconsider its cuts to rail projects across the north and midlands – warning that ministers are “letting down” the regions.

The government’s integrated rail plan published in November scrapped a planned high-speed line from Birmingham to Leeds and watered down proposals for a new east-west rail corridor across the north.

Ministers have also rejected calls for a new station in Bradford, and earlier this year cut back planned HS2 services to Scotland by scrapping the so-called “Golborne link” without proposing an alternative.

In a new report released on Wednesday the transport select committee said the government would not meet its so-called “levelling-up” goals unless it reconsidered its approach.

Our policy correspondent Jon Stone reports: