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“Part Benny Hill, part King Lear”


Liz Truss was an “agent of cosmic chaos” from an early age, says Charlotte Ivers in The Sunday Times. As Harry Cole and James Heale describe in their “fantastic” biography, her school and university years “primarily consisted of starting fights with anyone and everyone she encountered”. She spent her interview for St Hilda’s College, Oxford “berating” the academics for keeping the college women-only. That “argumentative spirit” hasn’t dwindled. In Downing Street, in what one Whitehall veteran describes as “the worst operation he can recall”, Truss “barrelled about chaotically”, ignoring all attempts to advise her. It was “part Benny Hill, part King Lear”.

Particularly enjoyable are the titbits from her time as international trade secretary. There were “multiple instances” on foreign trips where she “stayed up drinking so late she decided not to go to bed”. During the day she “hammered the espressos” to power through trade meetings, “befuddling and enraging the diplomats she encountered”. While some of her “minor embarrassments” are well known – that infamous cheese imports speech, for one – others are less familiar. “I had forgotten, for example, that when Truss was justice secretary she informed parliament that barking dogs at HMP Pentonville were helping to deter drones.”

Out of the Blue is out now (HarperCollins £20)