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Liz Truss on Friday vowed to crack down on “militant activists” after six Extinction Rebellion protesters disrupted the fourth Tory leadership hustings in Eastbourne.
The Foreign Secretary said she would pass new laws to stop hardline unions and activists “who try and disrupt our democratic process and our essential services”.
She had just taken to the stage at The Winter Garden theatre when a female protester interrupted her opening remarks, yelling “shame on you Liz Truss”.
As the first woman was collared and led out by security staff, four other demonstrators shouted out from a stage area calling for a “Green New Deal”.
One, still clutching an “In Liz We Truss” placard, screamed “we just want fair trade” and “good jobs” at the former trade secretary, insisting “we will win”.
As the quintet were removed by bouncers the Foreign Secretary branded them “infiltrators” and Tory members in the audience booed and chanted “out”.
‘I will never allow democracy to be disrupted by unfair protests’
Ms Truss then said: “Can I just say a few words on the militant people who try and disrupt our country, our democratic process and our essential services.
“I would legislate immediately to make sure we are standing up to militant trade unions who stop ordinary commuters getting into work and to protect our essential services.
“And I will make sure that militant activists such as Extinction Rebellion are not able to disrupt ordinary people who work hard and do the right thing and go into work.
“I will never, ever, ever allow our democracy to be disrupted by unfair protests.”
Later on during a question and answer session with a sixth demonstrator, a young man in a suit, stood up and berated the Foreign Secretary about her climate policies.
He accused Ms Truss of “killing people by licensing new oil and gas” - a reference to her plan to boost North Sea energy to help Britain through the energy crisis.
‘I’m a believer in freedom’
“I take it as a compliment that I’m so popular with Extinction Rebellion”, she said to applause from the audience as he was also ejected by security.
She later added: “I’m a believer in freedom to do as you want so long as you don’t harm others. One person’s freedom should not mean that other people suffer misery.”
The host of the hustings joked that the protesters had all “paid their £25 Conservative tax” given that they would have had to sign up as members to enter the venue.
The disruption came after a large crowd gathered outside the venue in Eastbourne ahead of the hustings carrying “Tories Out” placards.
Rishi Sunak, who also spoke at length to the gathering, was not targeted by the Extinction Rebellion activists.
During his remarks the ex-chancellor took aim at Ms Truss’s tax cutting policies, insisting they would not work in helping families through a “difficult period”.
He argued there was “no hope we’re going to win that next election” unless inflation was brought under control, adding: “We all saw the numbers. And if we don’t get a grip of this thing, and we get a grip of it fast, then we can kiss goodbye to winning that next election.
“The first thing to do is get a grip of inflation and get a grip of it quickly and not do things worse.”