It’s starting to look like Liz Truss is leading some kind of bizarre performance art project; a piece of surreal theatre that continually stretches credibility.
Little more than a month after she succeeded Boris Johnson as prime minister, she seems determined to keep pushing the boundaries of common sense to make us rethink the very concept of government.
Unfortunately, this epic, avant-garde experiment requires audience participation. Not only are we obliged to watch, we must also suffer to truly appreciate the groundbreaking nature of this extraordinary work.
As is becoming increasingly clear, Truss has assembled quite the repertory company to create this 24/7 production.
The first act of Truss’s experimental piece saw her appoint Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor, and then conspire with him to slash taxes for the wealthy without taking a moment to think of how public finances might be balanced to accommodate this.
As we know, the pound tanked, anticipated interest rate rises moved further upwards, and the Bank of England – those bores who don’t understand the nature of Truss’s genius – had to step in to prevent catastrophic losses in pension funds.
The plot twist that followed was, as critics have noted, somewhat predictable. Truss and Kwarteng U-turned, scrapping their planned cut of the 45% tax rate. This, naturally, weakened the already damaged leads in this extraordinary production.
A spine-tingling supporting cast
In recent days, the second act of Truss’s piece has begun. A group of supporting actors was deployed to take the story in new and interesting directions.
The secretary of state for business has created a character for the ages, part Christopher Robin, part 1950s hangman
Thérèse Coffey gave a bravura performance in the role of Thérèse Coffey, deputy prime minister, as she did the rounds of TV and radio stations. Showing a flair for the absurd, Coffey brought to the part a strong element of cluelessness, repeatedly refusing to answer questions on a range of issues on the grounds that she was not the minister responsible.
During an amazing exchange with Sky News’s Kay Burley, Coffey responded to a series of questions with: “You’re just throwing comments at me, Kay”, without once breaking character. This was spine-tingling stuff.
Plaudits, too, for Jacob Rees-Mogg, who hit the airwaves a day later. The secretary of state for business has created a character for the ages, part Christopher Robin, part 1950s hangman. Beneath a plummy and polite exterior lurks the terrifying stench of menace.
The way he delivered the suggestion on Radio 4’s Today programme that the BBC was breaching its obligation to impartiality by suggesting the government might have some responsibility for the disastrous effects of government policy was truly chilling. Expect Rees-Mogg to clean up come awards season.
Disturbing as it may be, the Liz Truss Project really is a must-see.
Euan McColm is a regular columnist for various Scottish newspapers