'Feisty' Truss is my choice for PM, says Ben Wallace as he reveals endorsement

29 July 2022, 08:29 | Updated: 29 July 2022, 08:47

Ben Wallace is backing Liz Truss
Ben Wallace is backing Liz Truss. Picture: Alamy/Getty/LBC

By Emma Soteriou

"Feisty" Liz Truss has the experience to be Prime Minister, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

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Mr Wallace declared his support for Ms Truss on Friday evening following the hustings in Leeds, praising her authenticity.

Explaining his decision on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Mr Wallace said "what you see is what you get" with the "feisty" Foreign Secretary, adding that she had a lot of experience to take on the job.

"First of all, Liz has experience," Mr Wallace said.

"She's not only Foreign Secretary but she's also been a trade minister, trade secretary and before that she was chief secretary of the treasury.

"She spent a long time in the treasury - the nation's book keeper is the chief secretary of the treasury - so she understands finances, economics, international trade and defence security.

"Secondly, I've spent the last two years with her and Rishi in Cabinet but with her I've been in bilateral meetings around the world - in Australia and France - and I've seen her close up and i think she's authentic - what you see is what you get.

"She's quite feisty - I've seen her take on other nations and stand up for Britain - and on defence spending and support for defence she absolutely understands the impact it has at home on our economy but also abroad on our security."

He added: "She's been consistent and I felt like on balance - having watched them in action - that she was the one to get my support."

The Defence Secretary also told Nick that he felt Rishi Sunak's decision to quit the Cabinet was the wrong thing to do.

"There are other mechanisms if you want to remove the leaders of your party," Mr Wallace said.

"I remember tweeting at the time, 'If you don't like the Prime Minister there's the 1922 process... fundamentally there was going to be a ballot where you could change the rules and have another confidence vote."

He went on to say: "I didn't think walking out of a Cabinet was the right thing to do, especially if you're a minister whose role is in my world and, for example, the Home Secretary's world where we have operational obligations - I don't think I can just walk out on that."

Both Ms Truss and Mr Sunak made their pitch to become Tory leader in front of Tory members at the first of 12 hustings yesterday.

Ms Truss said she did not want under-18s to be able to change their gender while Mr Sunak was quizzed as to whether he had stabbed Boris Johnson in the back - with members applauding the idea of the ousted PM being allowed to run in the leadership contest.

Ms Truss vowed to beat the "plastic patriot" Sir Keir Starmer while Mr Sunak insisted his clothing was not as important as what he would do as Prime Minister, in the wake of Truss supporters attacking his expensive attire.

The two leadership contenders are vying for the keys to No10 in Leeds.

Mr Sunak opened his speech at the start of the hustings by joking: "The sun has been shining - so much so that someone said to me the other day 'wow, you've got a great tan.'"

He stuck to his theme of giving others the same opportunity the UK gave his family when they came to Britain.

"This country did something absolutely incredible for my family, they welcomed them as immigrants 60 years ago and allowed them to build a better life," he told members, before pledging to "grip" inflation and NHS waiting times, and to "restore trust, rebuild the economy, reunite our country".

He said: "We will cut VAT on fuel. But what I won't do is embark on a spree borrowing tens and tens of billions of pounds of unfunded promises and put them on the country's credit card, and pass them on to our children and our grandchildren to pick up the tab.

"That's not right. That's not responsible, and it's certainly not Conservative.

"But of course, once we grip inflation and ensure that mortgage rates don't rise and cripple people, I'm going to cut taxes."

He received a more muted response than Ms Truss, who followed him with her opening speech.

Ms Truss, who grew up in Paisley, said her "grit, determination and straight-talking" came from Yorkshire, and that would be needed by a Prime Minister as they take on the economic crisis.

Ms Truss spoke about her upbringing in Paisley
Ms Truss spoke about her upbringing in Paisley. Picture: Getty

She pledged to keep corporation tax low, reverse the National Insurance hike and invest in projects like the Northern Powerhouse Rail.

The foreign secretary invoked the former Leeds United and England manager as she said: "I do want us to channel the spirit of Don Revie" because "we need to win", and branded Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer "a patronising, plastic patriot".

Speaking to Nick, Mr Sunak said he wasn't sure if Boris Johnson wanted to be envoy to Ukraine, but refused to say if he would appoint him, saying it was time to move forward.

Read more: Sunak says he had 'no choice' as he is accused of 'stabbing Boris in the back'

There was applause when Nick asked Mr Sunak about Boris Johnson being put on the leadership ballot - and asked if he had stabbed him in the back, having made him as a senior politician.

"I'd say to them that I think close to 60 people resigned in Parliament and it's incumbent on the Prime Minister to have the confidence of the parliamentary party, and that wasn't there at the end," Mr Sunak said of pro-Johnson members.

"So whether he's on the ballot or not, ultimately you need to be able to command the confidence of your MPs in Parliament, and we got to a point where close to 60 of them had resigned from Government."

Mr Sunak said he needed to resign from Boris Johnson's government
Mr Sunak said he needed to resign from Boris Johnson's government. Picture: Getty

He stressed again that problems in Government got to the point where he couldn't go on.

Mr Sunak received another applause when he said he would support the return of grammar schools.

Asked in a quick-fire question if he backed the controversial move, he said: "Yes."

Mr Sunak, who was privately educated, said he believes in "educational excellence" and that education "is the most powerful way to transform lives".

However, he said improving the education system in the UK is "not about throwing more money at the problem" but about "reforming the system to get better outcomes".

When questioned about his past possession of a green card, pulling pints for cameras when teetotal and awkwardness at a petrol station photo shoot, he insisted it was not about the suits or shoes he wears, but what he will do for the country.

Addressing Russia, Ukraine and Vladimir Putin, he suggested creating a "buyer's cartel" where a price cap was agreed for Russian energy, enforced by sanctions.

Grilled by Nick, Ms Truss said the UK needed to stand up to Putin, praised Boris Johnson for his record in Government like Brexit, and said she would simplify tax.

Pushed on her past remarks about whether the monarchy needed to be abolished, she said: "I have met the Queen… she has been far too polite to raise what I have previously said. Almost as soon as I made the speech I regretted it. I was a bit of a teenage controversialist."

She said as a former Shell employee she understood the importance of energy security and not taking it for granted, and stressed how important it is in the future that the UK is not dependent on regimes it cannot trust for power.

Liz Truss said under-18s should not be able to change gender as they could come to regret it
Liz Truss said under-18s should not be able to change gender as they could come to regret it. Picture: Getty

Quizzed by one audience member about gender and toilet use amid the debate about trans issues, Ms Truss said she promoted single sex spaces.

She stressed under-18s should not be able to make "irreversible" decisions about their bodies that they could come to regret later.

When asked about returning to single sex toilets in schools, Ms Truss said: "I completely agree with you - I have sought to clarify that as women's minister.

"I've been very clear that single sex spaces should be protected, particularly for young people as well as vulnerable people - vulnerable women in domestic violence shelters, for example - and I can assure you, as Prime Minister, I would direct that to happen.

"It's a difficult time being a teenager - being a young girl - and you should be able to have the privacy you need in your own loo, so I 100% agree with you and I would make that happen."

In a follow up question from LBC's Nick Ferrari about pupils who are transitioning, Ms Truss added: "First of all, I do not believe that under-18s should be able to make irreversible decisions about their own bodies that they might come to regret later. It's very important to note that.

"And of course, schools should be sensitive - they can provide additional facilities - but it should not be at the expense of protecting young girls."

Addressing claims she had rubbished her school in past comments about a relatively tough upbringing, she said that while it was not terrible, teaching was "patchy" and some children "fell through the cracks".

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