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Liz Truss rules out imposing another lockdown as PM and says Covid rules were 'too draconian'


Liz Truss tonight insisted schools should never have been shut as part of ‘draconian’ Covid restrictions – as she vowed never to impose a lockdown if she becomes prime minister next month.

The Foreign Secretary revealed how she questioned the Coronavirus measures brought in from March 2020 and acknowledged, in retrospect, how the Government ‘did too much’ in shutting down the country.

Speaking at the latest hustings event in the Tory leadership race, Ms Truss told Conservative Party members in Norwich that pupils should have been allowed to stay in their classrooms throughout the pandemic.

Her comments come after Rishi Sunak, her rival in the contest to replace Boris Johnson as PM, used a magazine interview to criticise the way Government decisions were made on Covid policy.

The former chancellor suggested that ’empowering’ independent scientific advisers had left the Government ‘screwed’ when deciding how to respond to the pandemic. 

He also claimed to have often been a lone voice of resistance to lockdown measures within the Cabinet.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss vowed never to impose a lockdown if she becomes prime minister next month

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss vowed never to impose a lockdown if she becomes prime minister next month

Rishi Sunak, Ms Truss's rival in the Tory leadership contest, used a magazine interview to criticise the way Government decisions were made on Covid policy

Rishi Sunak, Ms Truss’s rival in the Tory leadership contest, used a magazine interview to criticise the way Government decisions were made on Covid policy

Truss risks diplomatic spat with France after claiming ‘jury’s out’ on Macron 

Liz Truss tonight risked a diplomatic spat across the Channel as she refused to say whether Emmanuel Macron was a ‘friend or foe’ of Britain.

The Foreign Secretary, speaking to Tory members in Norwich, claimed ‘the jury’s out’ on the French President.

‘If I become PM, I will judge him on deeds not words,’ she added.

But her comments prompted an immediate backlash.

Critics pointed to how the UK and France are currently working together with other Western nations to face down Russian aggression in Ukraine.

David Lammy, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, accused Ms Truss of a ‘woeful lack of judgement’ by ‘using the last weeks of her leadership campaign to insult the president of one of Britain’s closest allies’.

He added: ‘We need a PM working in the national interest, not attempting to score cheap points from the Tory base.’

Asked this evening if she herself had questioned the Covid restrictions, Ms Truss said: ‘I did question it.’

But she explained how she had not been on the ‘specific committee’ deciding on Covid policy that was made up of Mr Johnson, Mr Sunak and then Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

‘I was Trade Secretary at the time and I was spending my time going hell for leather to get all those trade deals over the line,’ the Ms Truss added.

‘So our businesses would be able to continue exporting and be successful in the future.

‘That’s what I was doing. I think when Covid happened, we were all hugely shocked and there was a discussion about what the response should be.

‘And, clearly, in retrospect we did do too much. It was too draconian. I don’t think we should have closed schools.’

Pressed on whether the Government should ever have ordered schools to close during the pandemic, Ms Truss replied:  ‘No, I don’t think we should.

‘I have two daughters who are of school age. Mine are teenagers so it’s probably less tough; they’re more self-reliant and independent.

‘But I know for parents of primary school children it was very, very difficult and a lot of children have ended up suffering – educationally and with mental health issues, as a result of it.

‘I would never impose a lockdown if I am selected as prime minister.’

In an interview with the Spectator, Mr Sunak claimed the Government ‘didn’t talk at all about missed appointments, or the backlog building in the NHS in a massive way’, when they discussed the Covid response.

He added: ‘Those meetings were literally me around that table, just fighting. It was incredibly uncomfortable every single time.’

Asked about his criticism of Covid decision-making at tonight’s hustings, Mr Sunak said he was talking about ‘the lessons we should learn’.

He added: ‘This is not to second guess the decisions we made at the time, which were extraordinarily difficult for everyone involved. 

‘Everyone was doing their absolute best at the time to do what they thought was right for the country. These were impossible decisions.

‘But what I was talking about was having now been through it and had the experience of it, what can we learn from it?’

Supporters of both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss attended tonight's event in Norwich, which was the penultimate hustings of the Tory leadership contest

Supporters of both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss attended tonight’s event in Norwich, which was the penultimate hustings of the Tory leadership contest

Earlier in the day, Ms Truss spoke with a worker as she toured a food factory in Norwich that manufactures mint sauce and Colman’s mustard

Earlier in the day, Ms Truss spoke with a worker as she toured a food factory in Norwich that manufactures mint sauce and Colman’s mustard 

Awkward! Sunak says Truss is a better choice as PM than Boris… but she chooses Johnson over Rishi

Rishi Sunak tonight awkwardly saw Liz Truss state Boris Johnson would be a better prime minister than him.

Her answer came shortly after Mr Sunak himself said he would rather Ms Truss as PM than Mr Johnson.

The former chancellor, who quit Mr Johnson’s Government last month, told Tory members in Norwich: ‘Look, we’ve got to move forward as a party.

‘Lots of you here, I’m sure (are) upset with me for resigning, wish Boris was here, that is not going to help us move forward.

‘We’ve got to move forward as a party and when this is over we’re all on the same team, we’re all in the same family.

‘We’ve got to focus on beating Keir Starmer, and we’re not going to do that if we’re looking backwards. We’ve got to look forwards.’

Later during tonight’s hustings, Ms Truss risked a diplomatic spat across the Channel as she refused to say whether Emmanuel Macron was a ‘friend or foe’ of Britain.

The Foreign Secretary claimed ‘the jury’s out’ on the French President, adding: ‘If I become PM, I will judge him on deeds not words.’

Her comments prompted an immediate backlash as critics pointed to how the UK and France are currently working together with other Western nations to face down Russian aggression in Ukraine.

David Lammy, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, accused Ms Truss of a ‘woeful lack of judgement’ by ‘using the last weeks of her leadership campaign to insult the president of one of Britain’s closest allies’.

He added: ‘We need a PM working in the national interest, not attempting to score cheap points from the Tory base.’

But Ms Truss did tonight state that she would rather have French investment in Britain’s nuclear industry than rely on Chinese expertise.

‘I’m very clear that we need to boost our nuclear industry – including Sizewell, including the small modular reactors that are produced in Derbyshire,’ she said.

‘And, frankly, I would rather that we do have more homegrown nuclear expertise, and regrettably we lost that because we failed to do these things 20 years ago, or 30 years ago.

‘But if it’s a choice between relying on France and relying on China, I would take France.’

Tonight’s event in Norwich was the penultimate hustings before the end of the Tory leadership contest.

Either Ms Truss or Mr Sunak will be announced as the new Conservative Party leader on 5th September.

The winning candidate will then be formally appointed as Mr Johnson’s successor as PM the following day. 

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