HAROLD Wilson once said that “the Labour Party is a moral crusade, or it is nothing”. Where Keir Starmer’s vision falls on the crusade-to-nothing spectrum I leave to your judgement, but to adapt Wilson’s line to the Tories, Trussism can be understood in very similar terms. Trussism is an amoral crusade – or it is nothing. And this is an extremely dangerous fact for this stricken PM, as more and more elements of her domestic agenda are junked in a doomed quest for political survival.

Some political leaders win out because their supporters like and identify with them. Some are elected because they seem best equipped to monster their political opponents. Others are propelled to the front by their ideas. The Tory membership didn’t elect Truss leader because of her convivial personality, silver tongue or easy charm. She wasn’t picked out because they reckoned she was best-placed to give Starmer a hard time. Promises were made.

The former Australian prime minister Paul Keating has a neat typology. “Politicians come in three varieties,” he said. “Straight men, fixers and maddies.” Truss is a self-confessed maddie. She had a vision of Britannia unchained.

Remember the policy pitch: no new taxes. No tax rises. No windfall levy on high-earning energy firms. No national insurance hike. No increase in corporation tax. The commitment was to “lowering the tax burden, not giving out handouts”. All this was music to the ears of 57% of the party membership.

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In the cookie-cutter language of “savvy” political strategy, Truss positioned herself as The Change Candidate in the Tory leadership race, while Sunak got boxed in defending the government’s legacy. Truss even dubbed him “the continuity economic policy candidate” in one debate. This line has all the subtlety of a brick lobbed through a window – or a mini-budget tossed into the gilt market – but shows you how devoted Team Truss were to the idea: own the change, win the race.

She hammered Sunak for Britain’s current tax burden, for the health and social care levy, for being a creature of the failed status quo. He was the business-as-usual boy, the fully house-trained Treasury suit saturated in the official economic orthodoxy. “We need somebody with the toughness, the grit, who is prepared to take on the Whitehall machine and drive through change,” she said. Doubts equalled “declinism”.

This was a naked appeal to the Conservative Party’s wrecker tendency and the appetite for creative destruction now most associated with the political legacy of Thatcher. Keating thought the sainted Margaret was a maddie too.

Truss is marinaded in the paranoid style of right-wing politics. When he was education secretary, Michael Gove dubbed the English educational establishment – I think he meant schoolteachers – “the Blob”. These days, Tories see Blobs everywhere. Truss signalled right from the get-go that she intended to run roughshod over the fainthearts and squishes in the Treasury.

The failure to run her first mini-budget past the Office for Budget Responsibility to stress-test the implications of her sweeping tax proposals wasn’t just an unfortunate oversight or a tactical error in the new administration’s rush to make a big first impression – it was entirely in keeping with the contemptuous way Truss and her fellow travellers approach what they see as Whitehall’s entrenched opposition to true-blue Tory policies.

If things don’t work out as planned, it is always someone else’s fault. Pick your victim: Bank of England officials, nefarious Europeans, leftie lawyers, unpatriotic currency traders, militant trade unions.

Truss’s “dash for growth” – now the stagger/hirple/lollop towards contraction – might have seemed like good politics during the leadership race, but it leaves her hopelessly exposed now she has been forced to junk most of the policy commitments which got her elected. She’s inflicted substantial damage on the economy and her political party – just to end up exactly where she started.

The day after her “fiscal event” first landed and the pound began to tumble, the Daily Mail ran the front page with the legend “At last! A true Tory budget” promising the “biggest boost for 50 years”. It perfectly encapsulates both the worldview which made Truss’s election possible, and the impossible situation she now finds herself in having won it.

Consider the state of play this weekend. Forced to backtrack on the flagship income tax cuts. Forced to reverse ferret on corporation tax, which will now increase from 19% to 25% as planned in April. Forced to sack Kwasi Kwarteng for implementing her policy platform. Forced to summon Jeremy Hunt from exile to run the table for her. Just weeks into the job, Truss has become “the continuity economic policy candidate,” presiding over tax increases which she insisted were proof of the feebleness and cowardice of party colleagues who lacked the requisite “grit” and “toughness” for the top job. What we’ve got is Boris Johnson without the gags.

She’s now the change candidate who hasn’t been able to change anything for the better. The maddie whose first and final attempt to smash up the status quo knocked out her own chancellor, knocked 20 points off her party’s polling numbers, and knocked the value of the pound to historic lows. When Truss tweeted she was “ready to hit the ground from day 1,” she was more prescient than we knew.

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Mutiny, inevitably, is in the air. It feels like 200 years ago but cast your mind back to July of this year. Boris Johnson was finally pried loose from Downing Street, and Tory MPs began the process of deciding who should lead them. Until the fifth and final round, Truss was the third choice of her parliamentary colleagues. In the last round which settled the candidates released to the judgment of the 170,000 members of the Conservative Party, Truss secured just under a third of MPs’ votes, beating Penny Mordaunt by just eight votes.

THE Prime Minister’s limited base within the parliamentary Conservative Party might not have been a weakness in happier times with the mandate of members behind her. But having blown the shop, she’s not exactly surrounded by supporters. Anonymous briefings and leaked WhatsApp chains abound this weekend. One MP briefed the media that her appearance at the 1922 Committee this week “was like someone trying to light a fire using a magnifying glass. Using damp wood. In the dark.”

“Underestimate Liz Truss at your peril” we were cautioned. We know women in politics are held to different standards than men. Blasting away at female political leaders for being “lightweight” can make you sound like elderly misogynist who hasn’t fully reconciled himself with the modern notion of sisters doin’ it for themselves.

But sometimes, a spade’s just a spade. The Prime Minister appeared semi-catatonic at her strange and stilted press conference this week. If she can’t play the small-state crusader, if she can’t show her people the tax gains she promised, then Trussism is nothing but a desperately unsatisfactory personality with pretensions to gravitas and a few robotically repeated lines-to-take. There is no reservoir of affection, no legacy of political connection with the public. There was only ever the radical right-wing free-market agenda – and the markets have effectively destroyed it. You don’t get much more ironic than that in politics.