Tory leadership race live: Badenoch joins other candidates in committing to UK net zero target

Badenoch joins other leadership candidates in committing to net zero at climate crisis hustings

Helena Horton

Forty Conservative MPs turned up in the end to ask the leadership contenders about the environment at the climate hustings.

The big shock of the day was Kemi Badenoch, the former equalities minister, firmly, for the first time, committing to the UKs climate commitments and saying she would not row back on net zero. She previously disparaged the target, causing alarm among green Tories.

Chris Skidmore, chair of the environment all-party parliamentary group and organiser of the hustings, said:

For most people watching this debate they were terrified that someone would think they have a mandate to unpick our climate commitments. Alok [Sharma, the Cop26 president and chair of the hustings] was quite tough and made sure that they all got on the record supporting net zero and our climate commitments. Now all five have.

Many green MPs are concerned that biodiversity hasn’t really been mentioned during the contest, and they are worried that a new prime minister wouldn’t be as keen as Boris Johnson would have been on attending the Cop15 biodiversity conference later this year.

Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, according to peers and MPs present, dodged the question about whether he’d attend the conference in Montreal, Canada, in December. He said it was “very important” but did not commit to attending.

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, gave the strongest response according to the audience, telling them that not only would she attend, she’d lead a delegation and lead Britain on the world stage.

Sunak surprised those present in an otherwise rather finance and tech heavy speech by saying that peat restoration is his “pet project” and is the equivalent of Britain’s rainforest. He vowed to protect it as prime minister.

Key events:

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Sir John Hayes, the Tory rightwinger and chair of the Common Sense Group, has switched from backing Suella Braverman, who was knocked out of the contest last week, to Kemi Badenoch, his local paper reports. Hayes told Spalding Today that Badenoch was “fresh-faced and brimming with ideas and ability”.

Braverman herself urged her supporters to back Liz Truss, who is seen as the rightwinger with the best chance of making it on to the final ballot.

In Tory terms, Truss and Badenoch are seen as the only authentic rightwingers left in the contest.

Here is my colleague Helena Horton’s story about the climate hustings for the Tory leadership candidates earlier.

And here is an extract.

Rebecca Pow, a former environment minister, was asking questions at the hustings. She said afterwards: “They all seem to ‘get it’, some have more knowledge than others but they all committed to current policies and I think they all came over very strongly.”

Pow is backing [Rishi] Sunak and said she felt his answers were the strongest: “He more than anyone understood about how you use land to increase biodiversity and reduce emissions, but they all made really good points, especially on things like energy efficiency.”

My colleague Martin Pengelly went to the same school in Leeds that Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, attended, and – like other people from the city – is furious about the way that she has presented it as a place that let down its pupils. He has written about it here.

Here’s an extract.

This week, introducing her proposed economic policy, Truss doubled down on Roundhay school, where she apparently saw “children who failed and were let down by low expectations”. Perhaps she did. But perhaps she would have seen children failing or being let down wherever she went to school: city or country, state or private, satisfactory or outstanding. Perhaps she is selectively deploying her upbringing, and casually traducing the school and teachers who nurtured her, for simple political gain.

I’m furious, obviously. So are other Roundhay alumni. Here are some of their thoughts. A friend in my year, who also went into politics, says: “It’s a nonsense. To the extent that we were ‘let down’ it was because we were being taught in a building in such a state of disrepair that you could put your fingers through the window frames. Funding, not low expectations, was the problem.”

“Truss is basically someone with a massive chip on her shoulder who can’t work out what tribe she’s in,” said another friend, from the year below me. “She used to describe herself as brought up in ‘Yorkshire’ (county fairs, moorland, Geoff Boycott), to curry favour with the rural upper-middle classes she wants to be part of in Norfolk. She now claims to be from a Ken Loach film, T’Red Wall, in the hope that the 2019 intake of Conservative MPs will like her, or more importantly for her, accept her.”

Peter Apps, deputy editor of Inside Housing, has posted a good thread on Twitter about the housing policies of the Tory leadership candidates. He is scathing about all of them. The thread starts here.

And here are his conclusions.

Homelessness and rough sleeping have rocketed under the Conservatives. There are millions on waiting lists. Our social housing needs urgent investment. We need a plan for decarbonisation. Hundreds of thousands are trapped in homes that aren’t fire safe.

— Peter Apps (@PeteApps) July 18, 2022

Perhaps a need to declare our editorial stance, since this is party political. We’re apolitical, but are absolutely in favour of policies that deliver and maintain good quality social housing and against policies that don’t. FWIW, yet to see a convincing plan from Labour either

— Peter Apps (@PeteApps) July 18, 2022

Here is the Green party MP Caroline Lucas posing her urgent question on the heatwave.

“It is beyond perverse that ministers wring their hands over extreme heat one day and give the green light to new oil and gas extraction the next”

Green MP Caroline Lucas says some Tory MPs have “sought to make a culture wedge issue” out of the heathttps://t.co/TlG7IfkDEv pic.twitter.com/FXg5GvNr7g

— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) July 18, 2022

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, pitched her “heavyweight credentials on the economy” at the 1922 Committee hustings, PA Media reports. A source from her campaign told PA:

Liz made her pitch about her heavyweight credentials on the economy and her track record in delivering Brexit opportunities.

The next election will be about the cost of living and Liz is the only candidate with the plan and experience to deliver a proper Conservative economic agenda.

In the Commons Kit Malthouse, the Cabinet Office minister and chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, is answering an urgent question from the Green MP Caroline Lucas on the heatwave. My colleague Rachel Hall is covering it on the heatwave live blog.

At the start of the session the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, said he was surprised the government had not scheduled a full Commons statement on the emergency, given that it was so serious.

In a speech at the Farnborough Air Show this morning Boris Johnson claimed that he would leave office with public services and the free market economy in good shape. He said:

I am now going to hand over the controls seamlessly to someone else.

I don’t know who, but whoever it is, I can tell you this, I can reassure you of this, that the great Rolls-Royce twin engines of this Conservative government will roar on. Fantastic public services. A dynamic free market economy. Each boosting the other and developing, what’s the word I want, millions of tonnes of trust.

In his speech Johnson also turned to poetry as he described his outing in an RAF Typhoon at the weekend (a trip that No 10 sought to justify on the grounds that it was some sort of fact-finding enterprise – see 12.39am). Johnson said:

With the help of wing commander Paul Hanson I took off from RAF Coningsby straight up like a vertical firecracker.

We slipped the surly bonds of earth, as the poet Magee puts it, and danced the skies on laughter silvered wings.

This is from the FT’s Stephen Bush on the PM’s flight.

An MP supporting Rishi Sunak said “today is going to be quite a tough day for us” over the leadership ballot, PA Media reports. PA says they said Sunak gave a “colleague-focused pitch on campaigning” in the 1922 Committee hustings. The MP said candidates are being asked a variety of questions in the hustings, including on bringing the party together after the leadership election.

The MP told reporters:

Today is going to be quite a tough day for us in terms of the ballot, because if you look at the free votes sort of floating around from the candidate that got knocked out last week [Suella Braverman], I think it’s probably fair to say that we’re not going to pick up very many of those, I suspect.

So assuming everybody else votes for who they voted for … I wouldn’t expect our vote to massively increase today.

Tugendhat tells Tory MPs he expects to drop out of leadership contest after tonight’s vote

Tom Tugendhat, the Tory leadership candidate, told Tory MPs during his hustings appearance that he knew he would be forced out of the contest tonight. The person who comes last in each vote drops out, Tugendhat was second last in the last ballot and he has almost no chance of picking up votes from the previous candidate to drop out, Suella Braverman, whose supporters were hardline Brexiters. Tugendhat voted remain.

These are from my colleague Jessica Elgot.

Tugendhat tells 1922 he knows he will go out today – but will not withdraw.

“Some colleagues have suggested that I should step aside… it will come as no surprise that some have suggested I could leave with a job. But… it is not for me to make that decision – it is for you.”

— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) July 18, 2022

At the hustings, @TomTugendhat says: “I have deplored the infighting, the sniping, the blue on blue, the attacks and the smears. We do not need this, now or ever.”

— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) July 18, 2022

@TomTugendhat says: “We have not, I am sorry to say, spoken about all the issues the country faces.”
– Ambulance waiting services
– Grooming in Telford
– Welfare and ageing population

A “Conservative Government – must grapple with these issues or we are nothing”

— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) July 18, 2022

And this is from the Sun’s Harry Cole.

NEW: Tugendhat tells ’22 he wont quit but he’s “not naïve” about what will happen tonight.

Says quitting will knock 2 out in a day and wants to give other candidates the “opportunity to make their case further.”

— Harry Cole (@MrHarryCole) July 18, 2022

The Conservative 1922 Committee has been holding a private hustings for the Tory leadership candidates, who have been questioned by their colleagues one by one. PA Media has been speaking to candidates on their way out.

Asked how it went, Penny Mordaunt told reporters: “All very good, all very jolly.”

Banging on tables could be heard just before Rishi Sunak left the 1922 Committee hustings. Asked how it went, the Tory leadership frontrunner told reporters: “All good, enjoying it.”

Kemi Badenoch said the 1922 Committee hustings went well. Asked if she was feeling confident as she left, she told reporters: “Yes, always.”

And Tom Tugendhat said his appearance went well as he left, Sky’s Jon Craig reports.

As he left the hustings, Tom Tugendhat told reporters: “It’s all good.” Asked if he had done enough to stay in the race? He replied: “Absolutely!”

— Jon Craig (@joncraig) July 18, 2022

Penny Mordaunt has Irish Catholic roots, it has emerged, but her staunch support for Brexit makes her an outlier not just among many of those with Irish heritage but among her extended family. My colleagues Lisa O’Carroll and Jessica Elgot have the story here.

Boris Johnson visiting Farnborough International Airshow this morning.
Boris Johnson visiting Farnborough International Airshow this morning. Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP

Badenoch joins other leadership candidates in committing to net zero at climate crisis hustings

Helena Horton

Forty Conservative MPs turned up in the end to ask the leadership contenders about the environment at the climate hustings.

The big shock of the day was Kemi Badenoch, the former equalities minister, firmly, for the first time, committing to the UKs climate commitments and saying she would not row back on net zero. She previously disparaged the target, causing alarm among green Tories.

Chris Skidmore, chair of the environment all-party parliamentary group and organiser of the hustings, said:

For most people watching this debate they were terrified that someone would think they have a mandate to unpick our climate commitments. Alok [Sharma, the Cop26 president and chair of the hustings] was quite tough and made sure that they all got on the record supporting net zero and our climate commitments. Now all five have.

Many green MPs are concerned that biodiversity hasn’t really been mentioned during the contest, and they are worried that a new prime minister wouldn’t be as keen as Boris Johnson would have been on attending the Cop15 biodiversity conference later this year.

Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, according to peers and MPs present, dodged the question about whether he’d attend the conference in Montreal, Canada, in December. He said it was “very important” but did not commit to attending.

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, gave the strongest response according to the audience, telling them that not only would she attend, she’d lead a delegation and lead Britain on the world stage.

Sunak surprised those present in an otherwise rather finance and tech heavy speech by saying that peat restoration is his “pet project” and is the equivalent of Britain’s rainforest. He vowed to protect it as prime minister.

Major Tory donor delivers withering assessment of all leadership candidates – apart from ‘top class’ Badenoch

John Armitage, a hedge fund billionaire who has given more than £3m to the Conservative party in the past, delivered a withering assessment of the state of the party in an interview with Radio 4’s World at One. He was also scathing about all but one of the leadership candidates. Here are his quotes

On the Conservative party generally

In the Westminster bubble most MPs and most commentators don’t really realise what deep shit the Conservatives are in. I think people in the country are a) fed up with a regime that tolerated a dishonourable and bad prime minister for a long time; b) Brexit has actually happened and the debate has moved on to doing something about it and making it good; c) I think most people are fed up with what I would call boosterism, or you could call it policy by press release, where nothing happens.

If the Conservatives get a leader who will actually do something, and isn’t guided by opinion polls above all, yes, it might make a difference.

On the leadership candidates generally (apart from Rishi Sunak, who is opposed to immediate tax cuts)

I profoundly disagree with the idea that it’s Thatcherite to cut cut taxes when there’s a massive deficit and when our debt’s never been higher. I really don’t think that’s what Mrs Thatcher would have done.

On Liz Truss

I don’t like having foreign ministers who go in furs in tanks astride the world stage, looking like Mrs Thatcher.

On Sunak

It would worry me having a leader whose wife has been a non-dom … The danger is that anytime Rishi Sunak takes a hard economic decision, or any time his chancellor [does], what will get flung back at him is, ‘It’s all very well for you’.

On Tom Tugendhat

I don’t like having MPs who say that we should have been enforced a no fly zone over Ukraine, ie put ourselves into conflict with Russia, which is Tom Tugendhat.

On Penny Mordaunt

Penny Mordaunt’s credo, which she is making much of at the moment, was delivered through a book published a few years ago which was written in conjunction with a leading PR executive. And PR executives are very good people. But they are all about presentation … And I feel that that removes an element of genuineness.

And on Kemi Badenoch – the one candidate Armitage rates highly

I think Kemi Badenoch is really top class. I think she’s fresh, she’s different, she’s not associated with the old regime … Kemi Badenoch gives me the impression that she is genuine.

Asked if he had donated to Badenoch’s campaign, Armitage said he hadn’t. He also thought people should not win the Tory leadership just by virtue of having a well-funded campaign.

John Armitage.
John Armitage. Photograph: Geoff Caddick/PA

Badenoch says government should be ‘very careful’ about how it seeks to meet net zero target

Helena Horton

Kemi Badenoch, a former equalities minister, has drawn ire from the green wing of the party for her comments on net zero, arguing that green measures could be divisive and expensive.

Arriving for the climate crisis hustings, she told the Guardian:

If we are going to reach net zero we have to do it in the right way and bring people with us. We’ve set an aspiration to meet net zero by 2050 and we have to be very careful how we meet it.

When asked whether it could be more costly and expensive not to act, she said:

It could, but it could be even more expensive if we act but do it in the wrong way.

When asked what the “wrong way” could be, she replied: “Using technology that is not ready yet.”

Helena Horton

In his speech to the private hustings for Tory leadership candidates on the climate crisis (see 1.06pm) Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, seemed to focus mostly on technological and industrial solutions to climate change, telling those assembled that “London leads the world in carbon trading” and pointing out that we are ahead of other countries when it comes to green tech.

He gave an optimistic vision for how we can reduce emissions while keeping a strong economy.

This is from Huw Merriman, the chair of the Commons transport committee, who was one of the Tory MPs attending.

In the Tory leadership debate last night Kemi Badenoch, the former equalities minister, claimed Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, did not take fraud in the Covid loan scheme seriously. Lord Agnew resigned as a Treasury minister over this issue.

Agnew told Times Radio this morning that he was “very, very surprised” by Sunak’s response to Badenoch, in which he suggested the problem was not as serious as implied. Agnew said:

I was very, very surprised by Mr Sunak’s response that he said that fraud was coming in lower than was anticipated, because that is not what I understand at all. However, we are completely in the dark because he ensured that no data was published.

So we actually don’t know what the figures are other than one parliamentary question, which was a written one, which was tabled a few weeks ago, which indicated that the fraud losses on the bounce back loans were running up to 20%, which is a horrific sum of money. So, a £47bn loan scheme, and the first indications are that 20% of the losses are arising from fraud, which is not what was suggested.

So I would challenge him to publish the data, because he stopped that from happening when he was there.

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James Kugmo