Wednesday 10th August saw the Young Conservative Network host a leadership husting for our members, with two representatives from both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak’s teams in attendance, setting out why their chosen candidate is best suited to be the next leader oft he Conservative Party, and thus the next Prime Minister. We were lucky to be joined by the Rt. Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg MP and Julian Knight MP representing Liz Truss, whilst Rishi Sunak was represented by the Rt. Hon Dominic Raab MP, as well as Mark Harper MP, all of whom did an excellent job of arguing their candidate’s case.

Following brief introductions by both sides, the evening began with an issue which acutely
affects young people across the country, housing and planning reform. Having been asked
by yours truly whether there was a housing crisis, and, if so, what to do about it, both sides
agreed that it was incredibly difficult to get onto the housing ladder. Dominic Raab
highlighted how the gap between average house prices and average wages continued to
grow, to the extent that many would be unable to secure a deposit for a property without
financial assistance from their family. However, despite seemingly acknowledging the need
to reform the housing market in the United Kingdom, both sides seem reticent to commit to
fixing supply-side inadequacies in the market. Liz Truss’ commitment to abolish so-called
“Soviet” central housing targets effectively means that the target from Westminster is zero,
whist Sunak’s policy of refusing to build any houses on the green belt, instead focusing
solely on brownfield sites, suggests that NIMBYs may have again won the day in the
Conservative Party.

Tax policy, somewhat unsurprisingly, represented the area where there was the most
contention between our guests. Truss’ supporters were adamant that raising taxes when
faced with a recession was the fundamentally wrong approach. We should instead reverse
recent tax rises, focusing on growth and investment. Team Sunak argued that controlling
inflation was the most important goal going forward for the Conservative Party and the
United Kingdom as a whole. A recent YouGov poll, carried out for The Times, suggests that
the public agree with Sunak; sixty four percent of voters believed that the next Prime
Minister should focus on tackling inflation, with only seventeen percent favouring tax cuts.
The impassioned debate over taxation between the two opposing sides highlights how
divided the Conservative Party is on the issue. Given the pressing need to address the cost-
of-living crisis currently engulfing the nation, it is a divide that needs healing quickly. Come
October, household bills will rise further, and the energy price cap will now be adjusted
every three months to keep up with inflation. How to ensure that the Party unites around
the next leader was asked by one YCN member; both sides agreed that blue on blue attacks
needed moderating, although both blamed the other for instigating them. A divided Party

However, that is not to say that there were not several areas of agreement between the
two camps. Both agreed that there was not the political support within the Commons for
the UK to leave the ECHR, even though the European Court was halting the Rwanda immigration plan from being implemented in full. The plan itself received broad support from both sides; this reflects previous polling carried out by YCN of our members, which saw
the plan to process asylum seekers in Rwanda emerge as incredibly popular. The Union was
also placed at the heart of both campaigns. Both camps agreed that a hard line needed to
be taken with those seeking to cause a divorce, in the words of Julian Knight, between
Scotland and the rest of the UK. He also made the important point that we must make both
the economic and emotional arguments for the Union. Failure to do both only aids Nicola
Sturgeon’s secessionist aims.

Overall, an enthralling evening of debate between our guests. I hope that those who
attended found the husting beneficial for shaping their opinion on who to support in this
election. Whoever wins, we must unite behind our new leader. The Conservative Party
remains by far the best political party in the United Kingdom to govern our country; we
cannot let Labour ruin the nation we all hold so dear.