The ex-solicitor, the football commentator and the debut novelist: Meet the BBC local radio journalists who took Liz Truss to task
- Leeds presenter Rima Ahmed began the interview with: ‘Where have you been?’
- BBC Radio Nottingham’s Sarah Julian asked Liz Truss to admit ‘we got it wrong’
- Ms Truss declined to answer if the Bank of England’s intervention was the ‘fault of Vladimir Putin’ when pushed by James Hanson, of BBC Radio Bristol
The BBC local radio journalists who took Liz Truss to task with their unrelenting questions include a former solicitor, a football commentator and a debut novelist.
Appearing on eight stations in little more than an hour, the Prime Minister insisted she had the ‘right plan’ and would not shy away from controversial choices.
Ms Truss defended her low-tax economic plans after being accused of producing a reverse ‘Robin Hood Budget’ that gives to the rich and takes from the poor on BBC Radio Nottingham.
The round of BBC local radio interviews followed almost a week of economic turmoil after Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s ‘fiscal event’ on Friday.
During her eight interviews, the PM was presented with examples of the potential hardship facing millions as she said she would not alter course from plans to massively cut taxes for the better off and increase borrowing by billions.
Appearing on eight stations in little more than an hour, the Prime Minister insisted she had the ‘right plan’
She also faced criticism after appearing to suggest her Government’s multi-billion pound plan to underwrite energy bills would cap bills at £2,500 this winter, when that figure is an average.
The Prime Minister was lost for words at points on the round of stations from Norfolk to Bristol.
Presenters often asked questions and delivered criticism from readers struggling with the cost-of-living crisis:
Rima Ahmed, BBC Radio Leeds presenter asked Ms Truss where she had been since Friday
Presenting for BBC Radio Leeds, Rima Ahmed, who grew up in West Yorkshire, asked the PM ‘where have you been?’
‘I am really glad that you’re here… because since Friday, and the Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget, the pound has dropped to a record low, the IMF has said that you should re-evaluate your policies, and the Bank of England has had to spend £65bn to prop up the markets because of what they describe as a material risk,’ she said.
‘Where have you been?’
The trained solicitor presented Ms Truss with a pre-recorded clip from Lee, a man who the BBC team met at a West Yorkshire foodbank.
‘I’m just at the amount where I can’t claim any help whatsoever,’ Lee said. ‘And then you get the small pay rises and then everything just goes up.
‘Not only am I working harder than ever at work, prices of everything are going up – electric and gas bills are gonna go through the roof. So I have a wife who suffers with mental illnesses as it is – it is, it’s quite hard. You try to cope on the outside, but yeah, not really well, to be honest with you.’
The PM responded by claiming that her plans will help struggling Britons in the long-term, and reduce inflation.
Ms Truss insisted her plans were putting the country ‘on a better trajectory for the long term’ but that conditions would not improve overnight.
‘We had to take urgent action to get our economy growing, get Britain moving, and also deal with inflation,’ she said.
‘Of course, that means taking controversial and difficult decisions, but I’m prepared to do that as Prime Minister.’
Chris Goreham, BBC Radio Norfolk presenter focused on Ms Truss’ own constituency, South West Norfolk
Speaking next to BBC Radio Norfolk, the Prime Minister was questioned over issues impacting her constituency, South West Norfolk.
Chris Goreham, who is the station’s Norwich City football commentator and Breakfast Show presenter, questioned Ms Truss over the state of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn.
‘In the constituency next to yours there’ll be lots of people who’ll be going to work for the NHS in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital today and they’re working in an environment where the roof is held up by, at the last count, 1,500 props,’ Mr Goreham said.
‘Can you guarantee that King’s Lynn will get a new hospital?’
The PM responded, saying: ‘[I’ve been lobbying very hard to see improvements at the Queen Elizabeth and I’ve seen for myself the very difficult situation with the roof.
‘And of course, we have a new Health Secretary, Therese Coffey. I do hope she’ll visit the Queen Elizabeth Hospital soon to see the situation there.’
Mr Goreham said that Ms Coffey would be the fourth Health Secretary to have visited the site and questioned when it may be organised.
Ms Truss did not give listeners a date for the visit, adding: ‘Well I hope that she will be the one that delivers.’
She added that it was ‘really important’ the Government ‘took action quickly’ to ‘reduce the tax burden and get the economy going’.
Anna Cookson, of BBC Radio Kent, read messages to the Prime Minister from station listeners
Questioning the Prime Minister for BBC Radio Kent was Anna Cookson, who won gold at Audio and Radio Industry Awards this year for the best speech breakfast show.
Ms Cookson, author of novel, The Sound of Your Soul, decided to read the PM questions and comments from local listeners.
These included ‘What on earth were you thinking?’, ‘How can we ever trust the Conservatives with our economy again?’ and ‘Are you ashamed of what you’ve done?’
Ms Truss declined to answer whether she was ‘ashamed’ of her actions, saying instead: ‘I think we have to remember what situation this country was facing. We were going into the winter with people expected to face fuel bills of up to £6,000 pounds’.
Asked if she will reverse the policies unveiled in the mini-budget, Prime Minister Liz Truss replied: ‘I don’t accept the premise of the question.’
Presenter Ms Cookson retorted, ‘You’re going to have to accept it’.
She was also asked by a listener question: ‘What level of suffering is acceptable to ordinary households in order to achieve your perceived goal of growth sometime in the future?’
As the interview closed, Ms Truss spoke about the plan to send migrants to Rwanda for processing, adding that the Government was continuing to pursue the plan.
Graham Liver, of BBC Radio Lancashire, focused his interview on fracking – which has been carried out in Lancashire
At BBC Radio Lancashire, Graham Liver questioned Ms Truss on fracking, which has taken place in Lancashire.
‘We’re the only area of the country that has actually done it. And it caused earthquakes – people’s houses shook. Why do you think it’s safe to continue? Because none of the science has changed,’ the breakfast show presenter of 13 years questioned.
Her government has lifted the moratorium on drilling despite fears of earthquakes.
She said: ‘We will only press ahead with fracking in areas where there is local community support for that.
‘Fracking is carried out perfectly safely in various parts of the world, and the Business Secretary will make sure that any fracking that takes place is safe. But it’s very important for me as Prime Minister, that any fracking has local community consent.’
Ms Truss was questioned over what ‘community support’ for fracking would look like, with Mr Liver adding: ‘Scott Benton, the Conservative MP for Blackpool South, in a tweet, says that he believes that people in Blackpool South do not support fracking.’
When Ms Truss said that more detail would be given in future, Mr Liver replied: ‘It sounds like you don’t know.’
Ms Truss was also forced to admit she had never visited a Lancashire site where fracking had previously been attempted, before it was abandoned over concerns about tremors.
The PM defended her bid to revive fracking in the UK as part of efforts to boost the country’s domestic energy supply following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
She insisted that Britain should not be left vulnerable to Vladimir Putin ‘exerting pressure’ through Russia’s gas supplies to Europe.
But she issued a slapdown of Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary, after he last week suggested opponents of fracking were ‘luddites’ and dismissed concerns about the extraction process as ‘hysteria’.
Mr Liver first joined radio station The Bay making tea for his colleagues. At 18, he started his first on-air job at the BBC’s Radio Cumbria as a sports reporter. He then became Blackburn Rovers commentator for Radio Lancashire.
He previously said that his best caller was being held hostage by a family of seagulls.
‘This chap called Roy said a load of seagulls had nested above his front door and had babies, so they were very protective. Every time he left his front door, he was being dive-bombed by seagulls,’ he told the Lancashire Post.
‘We turned up with pest control and put this massive gazebo up to protect him,’ he added.
Sarah Julian, BBC Radio Nottingham presenter, asked whether it was a ‘reverse Robin Hood’ budget
On BBC Radio Nottingham, Sarah Julian, the breakfast presenter of 18 years, asked Ms Truss to hold up her hands and admit ‘we got it wrong’.
She said: ‘People like it when politicians are honest. Why don’t you just hold your hands up and say: ‘This is a mess, we got it wrong, and we’re going to do something different.’?’
The PM said she believes the economic situation would have been worse without the Government acting.
Faced with questions over the fairness of the mini-budget, the PM said: ‘It’s not fair to have a recession… it’s not fair to have less jobs in future because we have the highest tax burden.’
Ms Truss said it was ‘simply not true’ when asked by BBC Radio Nottingham’s Sarah Julian whether her mini-budget was a ‘reverse Robin Hood’ that disproportionately benefited the most wealthy.
Ms Julian had said: ‘The choices you’ve made in this mini-budget is going to benefit far greater those who are very, very well off – if you make a million, you’re going to benefit £55,000 a year from the tax cut. On £20,000, like a teaching assistant or a nurse, £157. A couple of people have said to me, here in Nottingham, this is like a reverse Robin Hood.’
Asked how she was creating a fairer tax system, the PM said: ‘The reality is, people having lower taxes across the board – everything from national insurance to corporation tax to income tax – helps everybody because it helps grow the economy.
‘It’s not necessarily popular to keep corporation tax low but I want to make sure we do because I want to make sure we attract investment into this country.’
Asked if there was any evidence that cutting the taxes of the most wealthy cut inequality, she said: ‘There’s plenty of evidence that if you have very high taxes they lead to lower economic growth.’
Amy Oakden, of BBC Radio Tees, questioned the Prime Minister over child poverty in the North East
At BBC Radio Tees, Amy Oakden questioned the Prime Minister over child poverty in the North East.
‘Your government has been in charge for 12 years. In that time, child poverty has increased in the North East. What are you doing about that?’ she asked.
The PM said that the ‘number one thing’ needed was to create high-paid jobs and help more people into work in reply.
She added: ‘That is exactly what our mini-budget is about. It’s about getting Britain moving. It’s about getting the infrastructure built. And it’s about attracting investment around our country, including into the North East.’
Ms Truss was also told about a listener, Diane, who has had to sell her house of 25 years due to the cost-of-living crisis.
The Prime Minister was asked how tax cuts for the wealthiest would help people like Diane, and replied: ‘Well, we are cutting taxes across the board because we were facing the highest tax burden on Britain for 70 years and that was causing a lack of economic growth, and without growth we don’t get the investment, we don’t get the jobs we need, which helps local communities right around the country.
‘We’re also reversing the increase in national insurance. We’re also reducing the basic rate. So we’re reducing taxes across the board, because the tax burden was too high.’
The Prime Minister took a pause when she was asked about sea life deaths by Oaken, who asked her to commit to ‘another investigation’.
After taking some time, Ms Truss said: ‘I would need to look into that issue, to be honest… I will certainly be raising that with the Environment Secretary.’
James Hanson, of BBC Radio Bristol, accused Ms Truss of giving ‘scripted answers’ to the interviews
James Hanson, of BBC Radio Bristol, accused Ms Truss of giving ‘scripted answers’ to the previous BBC interviews during his time with the PM.
He told Ms Truss: ‘It’s hard to know what’s fallen more, the value of the pound or the Tory ratings’, before questioning her over her replies on tax.
‘Prime Minister, with respect, that is the same scripted answer you’ve given to every BBC local radio station this morning,’ he said.
He also questioned Ms Truss after she spoke about the war in Ukraine putting pressure on economies around the world.
‘This isn’t just about Putin,’ he said. ‘I mean, your Chancellor opened up the stable door the other day and spooked the horses so badly you can almost see the economy being dragged behind them!’
Ms Truss replied: ‘This is about Putin and the war in Ukraine’ before being cut off.
Mr Hanson pushed further: ‘So the Bank of England’s intervention yesterday was the fault of Vladimir Putin, was it?’
This was not responded to by the PM.
The presenter added: ‘I thought you believed in sound money, or have you changed your mind about that like you did about Brexit?’
She replied: ‘I do believe in sound money. I would point out that interest rates are going up around the world. The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates. This is a global phenomenon.’
Pressed on whether people’s pensions were safe, Ms Truss said: ‘The Bank of England do that and they do a very good job of it.’
John Acres, of BBC Radio Stoke, asked the PM if she had ‘taken the keys to the country and crashed the economy?’
Concluding her round of interviews at BBC Radio Stoke, Ms Truss was questioned by John Acres.
Mr Acres began his interview by asking the PM: ‘Have you taken the keys of the country and crashed the economy?’
She replied: ‘I’ve taken decisive action to deal with the very difficult situation the country and the world is facing.’
As Ms Truss defended Government borrowing aimed at cutting taxes to promote economic growth and to provide aid with rising energy bills, BBC Radio Stoke’s presenter pointed out that homeowners’ mortgages fees were rising by more than the amount they would save from the energy support.
‘We are going to pay more in mortgage increases because of what you have done than we would have paid in energy costs,’ he told the PM.
After a silence, the Prime Minister replied: ‘I don’t think anybody is arguing that we shouldn’t have acted on energy.’
Mr Acres said that mortgages will ‘dwarf any of the savings that you’ve made doing anything else’, adding: ‘You’ve done this yourself – this isn’t to do with external forces, it’s about your mini-budget and what it’s done to the economy.’
Ms Truss said that interest mates are a matter for the Bank of England, before Mr Acres pushed further.
‘The BoE have had to bail out your decisions yesterday,’ he said. ‘The IMF have said that they don’t think what you’ve done is a good idea. Is it a time to reverse what you’ve done?’
The PM refused to reverse her plan, adding: ‘The majority of the package we announced on Friday was the support on energy for individuals and businesses and I think that was absolutely the right thing to do.’
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