Protesters from the environmental group Greenpeace were ejected from the Conservative Party conference on Wednesday after disrupting British Prime Minister Liz Truss’s first speech as leader.
Two female activists held up a flag that read “Who voted for this?” before they were escorted out of the conference center in Birmingham by security guards as the crowd booed.
“Let’s get them removed,” said Truss, to applause. Truss quipped following their removal that the “anti-growth coalition” had arrived at the hall “a bit too early.”
Greenpeace confirmed that its activists were responsible for the protest. In a tweet, the group 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 conference was taking place amid open party dissent following a screeching U-turn on Monday over a proposal to cut the top rate of UK income tax – an announcement that sent the pound to historic lows and sparked market chaos. The move was seen as insensitively helping the rich at the same time as Britons are living through the worst cost-of-living crisis for decades.
Truss, who became prime minister one month ago to the day after succeeding Boris Johnson, started off her speech by saying the country is in a new era dealing with a global economic crisis and that “in these tough times, we need to step up.”
“We gather at a vital time for the UK,” she said adding that “these are stormy days.”
“We’re dealing with the global economic crisis caused by Covid and by Putin’s appalling war in Ukraine. In these tough times, we need to step up,” she also said.
“I am determined to get Britain moving,” she added and “to put us on a strongest footing as a nation.”
Truss criticized the “anti-growth coalition” that included “some of the people we had in the hall earlier.”
She added: “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.”
The prime minister was giving her speech as Conservative members of parliament voiced fears the combination of tax cuts along with huge public spending to help people cope with energy bills, rising inflation, rising interest rates and a falling pound are going to make winning the next general election impossible.
“I will not allow the anti-growth coalition to hold us back,” Truss said. “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.
“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.”
Truss walked on to the conference stage to the music of 1990s hit, “Moving on Up,” by M People. Later, the group’s founder Mike Pickering tweeted his opposition to the use of the song by the Conservatives. “So apparently we can’t stop Truss walking out to our song, very weird! So sad it got used by this shower of a government,” he wrote.