Huge crowd for Truss conference speech as ministers struggle with attendance

Liz Truss packed out the room for her conference speech. Credit: ITV News/PA

Former prime minister Liz Truss has attracted a huge crowd for her speech at the Conservative Party Conference while Cabinet ministers have been struggling to fill auditoriums.

Senior Tories had urged Ms Truss to stay away from the Manchester conference amid concerns she could cause difficulties for Rishi Sunak but it appears party members are still keen to hear from the UK's shortest serving PM.

She was asked, "are you just here to cause trouble?" by reporters as she arrived in Manchester ahead of her speech at a fringe event where former home secretary Priti Patel and former business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg also spoke.

Many Cabinet ministers have struggled to fill autitoriums for the conference speeches, including Transport Secretary Mark Harper. Credit: Kevin Schofield/HuffPost

Ms Truss told a so-called growth rally her party needs to “make the case for Conservatism again” and “do more to revive Conservative values and show that they deliver”.

Senior Tories Lord Houchen and Conor Burns have both said they are disappointed Ms Truss had decided to attend conference.

Tees Valley Mayor Houchen told a conference fringe event hosted by think tank Onward: “I thought Ms Truss would have more awareness than to, for example, come to Conservative Party conference. I don’t think she should be here.”

He added she should have stayed away and let Mr Sunak set out his agenda without distractions, as he did when she was prime minister.

Mr Burns told ITV News she could serve the country best by "keeping quiet" and said: "I don't think her appearance here is doing any good at all."

But many Tory members clearly did not agree, with a queue to watch her speak growing for at least an hour before the speech. Even former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage showed up.

The passionate crowd gave Ms Truss a huge applause as she was introduced to the stage but many ministers did not get the same reception for their speeches in the main autiorium.

Members of the Cabinet were reportedly told to fill the front rows of their speeches with aides, so TV cameras had something to cut to after dozens of empty seats were shown on Sunday.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps spoke to a mostly auditorium on Sunday, as did Transport Secretary Mark Harper on Monday.

In her speech, Ms Truss said: “We’ve got to get better at translating ‘growth’ into what it means in day-to-day terms for people, businesses and families.

“It means a better standard of living so that people have more disposable income to go on holiday, buy a new car or support their children.

“If we axe the tax, cut bills and build houses, we would make life better and easier for the British public, and give them the freedom to thrive.

“There is no reason we cannot go into the next election with a platform that is proudly Conservative. Let’s stop taxing and banning things, and start producing and building things.”