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During a question and answer session in Eastbourne, the leadership frontrunner called them “infiltrators” and said: “Can I just say a few words on the militant people who try and disrupt our country?” Ms Truss said she would act “immediately” to stand up to unions “who stop ordinary commuters getting into work”.

As protesters were escorted out, she added: “I take it as a compliment I’m so popular with Extinction Rebellion.”

She had earlier told Tories “it’s time to unite” and defeat the Labour Party at the next general election. The Foreign Secretary’s supporters tweeted she will “unite our party, beat Keir Starmer, and is trusted to deliver for Britain”.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said the Tory leadership favourite “understands our regions represent a potential gold mine of growth”.

Jake Berry MP, chairman of the Northern Research Group, said she “will deliver a bright future for the North”.

But leadership rival Rishi Sunak said yesterday: “I know I’m the person who can win for all of us.” He got backing from the Scottish Conservatives who said he would unite the party.