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Another day, another Tory leadership hustings.

Ever since Boris Johnson resigned last month, and Tory MPs whittled down power peckish politicians seeking to replace him to two, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, the pair have been schmoozing their way through the UK to pitch themselves to the members of the Conservative party that - by being able to vote for the new leader - have the country's fate in their hands.

So last night they merry duo schlepped to Cardiff, where Sunak brushed up on his Welsh and Truss - not content with slagging off Scotland's Nicola Sturgeon earlier this week - decided to rip into Welsh leader Mark Drakeford too.

It all sounds like the rigorous debate our country so desperately needs to get us out of the cost of living crisis, deal with Ukraine, and plan for a jolly future doesn't it?

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Maybe not, but who came off as the lesser of two evils?

Rishi Sunak

"Noswaith dda Welsh conservatives," 6/10

Suank started by saying "good evening Welsh conservatives," in Welsh and he sounded incredibly proud of himself for getting the pronunciation right.

Yes, it is good to address people in a country in their native language, but it is probably the bare minimum and if you are going to do it - try and be less self-congratulatory about it afterwards.

"As a backbench MP I came up with the idea of freeports, as a chancellor I started to deliver them in England," 2/10

Did you? Not exactly. Sunak announced the location of eight freeports - areas where imports are exempt from tariffs - in March 2021, but the UK also set up seven freeports after 1984, including at Liverpool and Southampton before phasing them out in 2012.

Hmm.


"Of course far-right extremism is important and we should tackle it, but it is just nowhere near as pervasive as the threat from Islamist extremism," 4/10

Sunak was quizzed on Prevent, the government's counter-terrorism programme, and whether it should focus more on the far-right, and he thoroughly downplayed the far-right's threat.

A corrective to him: Metropolitan police assistant commissioner Matt Jukes, head of counter-terrorism, said that “19 out of 20 children who were arrested in the previous 12 months for terrorism offences were linked to an extreme rightwing ideology”.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that since March 2017, counter-terrorism police and the intelligence services have stopped 32 plots they assess as aiming to cause mass casualties on British soil. Of these, they assess that 18 were Islamist-related, and 12 were linked to the far-right.

We'd say 12 is not "nowhere near" 18, and given pervasive issues with alleged Islamophobia in the Tory party, we're not sure this was the right way to go for two reasons.

"You have absolutely smashed it," 3/10

Speaking about Welsh conservatives' success in elections, Sunak patronised the country with his favourite phrase he has used to congratulate campaign staff too.

Cringe, and pure David Brent. Over to Truss.


Liz Truss

"The Western world was caught napping while Putin was advancing," 5/10

Ok. And who was foreign secretary at the time, Truss? Was it you? It was? Oh.

"I want to extend it [Rwanda plan] to more countries," 0/10

In her opening pitch, Truss celebrated the controversial policy and said it could go further. Blimey. And we thought supporting it was bad enough.

Mark Drakeford is "a low energy version of Jeremy Corbyn," 0/10

It may have gone down well with Welsh Tories, but is it really the best idea to tour around the UK leaving a trail of insults about different leaders behind? We don't think so. After all, if Truss becomes PM she will have to engage in diplomacy with Drakeford and Sturgeon and others, so she'd do well to treat them with a bit more respect.

"It was misinterpreted by the media," 0/10

Truss was quizzed on her now-binned plan to shake up regional pay. Earlier this week she said she wanted to link civil servants' salaries to living standards where they work and said the scheme could be rolled out to other public sector areas, before performing what is known in the trade as a "screeching U-turn" amid a huge backlash, that included members of her own party.

But at the hustings, Truss said she never intended it to impact public sector workers like nurses and teachers and said the media were misconstruing it, which doesn't sound like Donald Trump barking "fake news" at all...

"I think being a convert is actually an asset, because what do we have to at the election? We have to convert people," 9/10

Truss has been asked about her changing political beliefs a lot. She previously supported the Liberal Democrats and even campaigned against the monarchy.

But to be fair to her, this was a great answer and a fair point. People who change their minds are clearly more open-minded to listening and learning, traits needed in a PM, and if she can persuade people to vote Tory, she would indeed by fulfilling the brief of the leader of the party.


Verdict

Those among us who have been lucky enough (or unlucky enough) to have followed the leadership contest closely will have found these hustings pretty repetitive.

The two leaders crammed in their favourite lines (Sunak hates inflation and loves suggesting he is the most Conservative, Truss hates tax and loves saying "a woman is a woman") but in the almost two hours that the two blabbered on, neither of them managed to really say anything.

Some might see it as impressive to be able to talk so much while delivering so little content but we'd like our politicians to set an exciting agenda for the country, not spout buzzwords.

Nevertheless, we said we'd pick a winner, so let's do just that: Sunak seemed animated to the point of desperation - probably because he is trailing in the polls - while Truss seemed at ease and managed to crack jokes about singing Shirley Bassey's Goldfinger.

There was an awkward moment when Sunak was asked about a piece of Welsh legislation, the 2015 Well-being of Future Generations Act, and had to get interviewer Hannah Vaughan Jones to explain it to him."Noswaith dda Welsh conservatives" isn't sounding so impressive now, is it?

But then there's the fact that Truss got caught out about her (discarded) regional pay policy, and kept going on about how much she likes Welsh lamb.

So who won? With all that, we'd say Truss came off the most slick, which is unfortunate, given we think Sunak's policies are slightly less egregious. Until the next hustings.

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