Liz Truss on Leeds campaign trail: Local issues, not sleaze, are people's election priority

Voters’ concerns are focused chiefly on community issues as they go to the ballot box, the Foreign Secretary has insisted, despite two looming by-elections following a series of scandals.

Liz Truss, taking to the campaign trail in Leeds yesterday ahead of Thursday’s local election, maintained that she was met on the doorstep with questions over road improvements rather than sleaze.

The party has been braced in the polls following the resignation of Tory MP Neil Parish who admitted watching pornography in the Commons, while a second by-election has been triggered in Wakefield after MP Imran Ahmad Khan was convicted of sexual assault.

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Ms Truss, when asked if she would support calls for female candidates amid concerns about a culture of sexism and misogyny at Westminster, said: “We need to make sure we have the best candidate. We have to be open to people of all backgrounds.

Liz Truss. Image: PA Wire

“We want high standards in the House of Commons, MPs who behave responsibly.”

And when questioned over the impact on local polls, she said: “To vote Conservative is of course a vote for the candidate but also a vote for our Government, to continue doing what they are doing.

“The Prime Minister has delivered Brexit, and a really strong Covid response. We need to be allowed to continue working on that.”

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Local elections May 2022: What is at stake in my area of Yorkshire?
Liz Truss pictures in East Ardsley.

Local elections

Ministers have been quick to insist the Prime Minister’s leadership is not “at threat at all” as local voters ready for the polls, following both partygate and a row over Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s wealth and his wife’s tax status amid a cost of living crisis.

Ms Truss said that while people do want the Government to work on building the economy, the “number one issue” on the doorstep was a focus on local issues like excessive speeding in Addingham.

The Government had “led the world” on rolling out Covid vaccines quickly to open up the economy and keep people working, she said, adding: “Of course we want to grow the economy, to grow opportunities, to make sure there is money coming into people’s pay packets.”

Transport

Ms Truss, visiting East Ardsley after trips to Keighley and Pudsey yesterday, spoke of her own childhood in Leeds, where she was a student at Roundhay School.

Acknowledging calls for improvements to transport in the city, she said this was key for the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, adding: “As somebody who spent a lot of my childhood in Leeds, I know that transport, particularly in and out of the city centre, does need to be improved.”

She added: “What I am hearing is people are voting on local issues.

“They want to see things like road improvements, they want to see action on these issues.”

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