High-octane Liz Truss is powered by self-confidence. Don’t underestimate him

For some, that led to the “minsplaining” charge, though that’s obviously a bit of a cheap shot — “splaining” is a side-by-side debate and both candidates are entitled to drive home their points. The next stage of this race depends on who behaves better with their stereotypes. Truss can be considered “bonkers” (slow Twitter speak for a woman with unapproved views), “crazy as a box of snakes” (Dominic Cummings) or “a metallic voice and annoying laugh” (Paul Decker). Yet the sense of impatience that his opponents mistake for strangeness is also what is fueling his campaign – uncritical self-confidence. The cynics can make clear gains on “fairy tale” economics and whether the truce will really like the higher interest rates that its policies might usher in. This may also be the point at which fortunes turn, as the Tory members weigh Liz’s whimsy and Cinq’s dire warnings. So far, she is the true, new, blue goddess. With an unstoppable twinkle in his eye.

When people ask who the “real” Truss is, writing about her since 2010, I remember her emerging from the Lib-Dem machine in the mid-1990s, partly as a firebrand. But that gave the late Lord Ashdown indigestion. An anti-monarchy message was sent to his aide, the problem-solver Lord Rizal, to calm the storm on the grounds that abolishing more monarchy might erode the party’s support – only to find that Truss was not far behind. Will move. However, less reported is that in her Lib-Dem or Tory incarnations she has always been at the liberal end of the free-market economic argument – a Lib she certainly was: a proto-socialist she certainly was not.

Fundamentally, this contest is also about change – not just from Boris Johnson’s misguided leadership but about how much change the Conservative Party can absorb after being in power for so long. Cink’s reinvention of the chancellor under the guise of the Tory crown is beginning to pay off in terms of less primacy among party members and greater popularity with the wider electorate. He too has become a challenger from an incumbent.

But Truss has ordered a more extensive self-reinvention – from a firebrand past in 2016 and a Remain voting record to a culturally conservative grass-roots darling. But substance aside, when the country desperately needs reassurance about the future of the NHS, and how well its revenues will keep up with inflation, voters are left with a sense of energy and, yes, even danger. There is a search. This is why Tony Blair was able to win the Labor crown over Gordon Brown in 1994 and why a rakish David Cameron could once again do the trick against Conservative stalwarts in the 2000s.

Truss isn’t as polished an actor as either. But he has another quality that his party (and those beyond) may well appreciate: namely, a sense of adventure and daring. Johnson was no doubt on the carefree end of the spectrum but it is not certain that, in an era of short attention spans, voters want to go back to the “reliably dull” either. Truss’s most charming quirks are illusions that can be inspired – sending a staff member when she was Trade Secretary to scour London for a Union Jack teapot, a (very partial) Australian with excellent optics. Seal the trade agreement.

The last time I sought an interview and was frustrated by the lack of progress, he dared me to send a rudely worded request to his Special Adviser (I’ve given known reasons in the form of a Freedom of Information bid). considered it better on account of). None of this makes Trisonomics a hard time or the prospect of his leadership a foregone conclusion for the Tories at the next election. But one point her critics miss that she is in contention for No 10 after just 12 years in Parliament is that she believes she can do it. And it’s the most high-octane political fuel of all.

Ann McElroy is executive editor at The Economist.