Will the Tory leadership contest ever end? Tuesday evening was the fifth Conservative hustings, this time in Darlington. For the northernmost hustings so far, protesters gathered, like previous occasions, to make their discontent with both candidates known. There were some odd moment, with Rishi Sunak admitting someone had taught him recently how to use a contactless bank card, while Liz Truss took the country back to 1997 by arguing “things can only get better”, Given the current state of the UK, few would disagree. 

As the far and away favourite, Liz Truss veered into familiar territory, as the cost of living crisis remained the elephant in the room. Rejecting “Gordon Brown economics”, she opposed “taking money off people in tax and then giving it back to them in handouts”. A jibe chosen perhaps because of Brown’s accusation the government has “no one at the wheel”

Her opposition to Gordon Brown knew no bounds. She dismissed Brown’s policy suggestions for extra aid to help households. And also snubbed Rishi Sunak’s suggestion of talks with the Prime Minister on how to resolve the crisis. The suggestion was instead labelled “bizarre” and a “made-up…kangaroo committee” to rounds of applause. With the Prime Minister admitting any big decisions should be taken by his successor, government is in a state of paralysis.

Politicians complaining about the media are like sailors complaining about the sea. That doesn’t stop them from doing so. Asked about whether Johnson fell because of his “own making or someone else’s” by Tom Newton Dunn, Truss endorsed audience calls of “the media” and reflected “who am I to disagree with this excellent audience?”. It’s almost like she’s trying to win their votes.

Truss also accused Newton Dunn (former political editor of the Sun, remember) of asking a “left-wing” question about help with energy bills and accused parts of the media of trying to “talk our country down”. Previously she has criticised a “Financial Times” economic orthodoxy. 

At the end, caught on a microphone, Truss apologised to Newton Dunn for being “mean about the media” when the hustings concluded. But this time it was his turn to snub her, stating the remarks were “cheap”. If only the same could be said for people’s energy bills. The battle of slogans over substance continues.