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'Let's get them removed': Truss' Tory conference speech interrupted by Greenpeace protesters

She faces a tough task retoring Conservative morale after the U-turn over a totemic tax policy.

The protesters in the crowd as Liz Truss addressed the Conservative Party conference
The protesters in the crowd as Liz Truss addressed the Conservative Party conference
Image: Screengrab/Sky News

Updated Oct 5th 2022, 12:05 PM

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Liz Truss’ first speech as leader to the Conservative Party conference was momentarily disrupted by protesters holding a banner reading “Who voted for this?”. 

Two women stood up in the middle of the crowd, and held up the yellow banner with the Greenpeace logo on it. 

Truss paused her speech and said “let’s get them removed”, as others in the crowd applauded her. 

“Later on in my speech, I’m going to talk about the anti-growth coalition, but I think they arrived in the hall too early. We’ll get onto them in a few minutes,” Truss said. 

The two women were quickly escorted from the hall by security. 

Greenpeace confirmed that its activists were responsible for the protest during the speech.

In a tweet, Greenpeace said activists were there to “denounce the Prime Minister ‘shredding’ her party’s 2019 manifesto promises”.

“The PM is U-turning on fracking, strong climate action, and world-leading environmental protections.

“Who voted for this?”

The British Prime Minister has endured a bruising conference after just a month in the job, with a U-turn over a totemic tax policy and dissent within her Cabinet, and heckling during her speech illustrated the level of discontent.

During her speech this morning, Truss, who was only elected as Tory leader on 5 September, sought to rally Conservative activists behind her vision of a UK Government wholly committed to boosting economic growth.

She vowed to break Britain out of a “high-tax, low-growth cycle”.

Truss told the Tory Party’s annual gathering: “Conference, it’s wrong to invest only in places which are thriving, as economic models often have it.

“We need to fund the furthest behind first. For too long the political debate has been dominated by the argument about how we distribute a limited economic pie,” Truss said.

“Instead, we need to grow the pie so that everyone gets a bigger slice.

“That is why I am determined to take a new approach and break us out of this high-tax, low-growth cycle.

“That is what our plan is about. It’s about getting our economy growing and rebuilding Britain through reform.”

Truss hinted at more “disruption” as she said she has three priorities for Britain’s economy: “growth, growth and growth”.

She conceded that “the scale of this challenge is immense”, telling the Tory Party conference: “War in Europe for the first time in a generation, a more uncertain world in the aftermath of Covid, and a global economic crisis.

“That is why in Britain we need to do things differently. We need to step up. As the last few weeks have shown, it will be difficult.

“Whenever there’s change, there is disruption. And not everyone will be in favour of change, but everyone will benefit from the result – a growing economy and a better future.

“That is what we have: A clear plan to deliver.

“I have three priorities for our economy: growth, growth and growth.”

Protesters

Liz Truss also railed against the “anti-growth coalition”, which she said included “some of the people we had in the hall earlier”.

After the Greenpeace protesters disrupted her speech, the British Prime Minister said: “Economic growth makes us strong at home and strong abroad and we need an economically sound and secure United Kingdom and that will mean challenging those who try to stop growth.”

She said she would “not allow the anti-growth coalition to hold us back”.

“Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, the militant unions, the vested interests dressed up as think tanks, the talking heads, the Brexit deniers, Extinction Rebellion and some of the people we had in the hall earlier,” Truss said. 

“The fact is they prefer protesting to doing. They prefer talking on Twitter to taking tough decisions.

“They taxi from north London townhouses to the BBC studio to dismiss anyone challenging the status quo. From broadcast to podcast, they peddle the same old answers. It’s always more taxes, more regulation and more meddling.

“Wrong, wrong, wrong.”

Rebecca Newsom, head of public affairs at Greenpeace and one of the protestors thrown out of the Conservative Party conference, told reporters: “This year we really felt we needed to make an intervention because nobody actually voted for a lot of what Liz Truss and her Government are trying to do at the moment.

“Nobody voted for fracking, nobody voted to cut benefits, nobody voted to trash nature, nobody voted to scrap workers’ rights.

“There’s a whole host of things that the Conservative government were elected to do in 2019 that they are simply not doing and we needed to take that message and represent the public and actually push for Liz Truss to remain true to what the public has actually asked her and her Government to do.”

Polls

Earlier, Former British Cabinet minister Grant Shapps warned Truss has little more than a week to save her leadership, while another member of former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top team, Nadine Dorries, said she is not calling for an immediate election because “we’d absolutely lose it”.

Dorries had previously suggested Truss should go to the country if she wants a mandate for her tax-cutting, high-borrowing agenda.

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly insisted Truss will lead the Tory Party into the next election and said Mr Shapps’ comment that she has 10 days to turn things around is “ridiculous”.

Asked how the annual gathering of the Tory party is going, the Cleverly said: “Brilliant, the atmosphere is fantastic.”

Truss’ speech comes as a new YouGov poll today shows that she is already more unpopular than Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn ever were.

Just 14% of the British public now say they have a favourable impression of the Prime Minister compared with 26% who said so between 21-22 September.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) now see the British Prime Minister in an unfavourable light, including more than half (55%) who see her very unfavourably.

That gives her a net favourability rating of minus 59, depths not plumbed by Johnson, who hit minus 53 in July or Corbyn who fell to minus 55 in June 2019.

YouGov surveyed 1,751 British adults on 1 and 2 October.

Includes reporting by Press Association

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