CRAIG BROWN: I’m inspired by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s cracking suits
What if we lived in a world where artists were treated like politicians, and politicians were treated as artists?
MELVYN BRAGG: Liz Truss, your oratory has earned you thousands of admirers. Many argue that it falls within the English impressionistic mode. What about you? Do you see yourself in that noble tradition?
LIZ TRUSS: Oh, very much so, Melvyn. I like to hesitate, and to change my mind. Often, I try at the same time to look like a rabbit caught in headlights.
MELVYN BRAGG: That’s a very powerful image.
LIZ TRUSS: Most of the time, I just let the words spill out in no particular order, in the hope that others, less clever than I, will attach some sort of meaning to them. As you say, my whole approach is very impressionistic, very avant garde.
MELVYN BRAGG: Fascinating. So, am I right in thinking that, for the most part, you are attempting to give the impression of intelligence through what one might call a heightened form of stupidity?
LIZ TRUSS: Oh, very much so. My aim is to say more and more about less and less. Or less and less about more and more. One or the other. Perhaps a bit of both. For me, it’s always been important to speak before thinking. I just see what comes out, and go from there. To me, a really good word means much the same thing forwards or backwards. That’s why I’m so associated with the word D-E-L-I-V-E-R.
‘I think my world view has been greatly influenced by the later work of Jacob Rees-Mogg. It’s his sense of certainty I most admire, and his effortlessly superior demeanour’
MELVYN BRAGG: Who are the politicians you most admire? Who would you say has been your greatest influence?
LIZ TRUSS: I think my world view has been greatly influenced by the later work of Jacob Rees-Mogg. It’s his sense of certainty I most admire, and his effortlessly superior demeanour. I learnt an awful lot from his dismissive tone, his magisterial air and, perhaps above all, his double-breasted suits.
After first listening to him, I decided that I, too, would treat my audiences as if they had an average age of three and were asking to be excused.
But then I’ve had so many political influences, Melvyn. Priti Patel taught me all she knew about running a large department. It was so good of her to give me five minutes. From Boris Johnson I learnt the importance of gravitas. And from Iain Duncan-Smith, I gained precious knowledge of how to lead.
MELVYN BRAGG: Could I take you back to your childhood? When did you first realise that you might one day become a politician?
LIZ TRUSS: I suppose it dates back to when I was four or five, Melvyn. At primary school, they asked me to name my favourite colour. I said yellow, went mad for Yellow and started the Friends Of Yellow sup – port group. But then most of my classmates suddenly decided that Orange was their favourite colour, and joined Friends Of Orange.
Then it dawned on me that actually Yellow wasn’t really all that nice a colour, and Orange was so much better. So I went around the playground making speeches in support of Orange, and saying how much I hated Yellow, and how I never really liked it anyway. Then I was made Deputy Leader of the Friends Of Orange and that’s when I knew I was destined to be a politician.
MELVYN BRAGG: Fascinating. Thank you for sharing that. And I think a lot of the most fervent admirers of your work will agree with that. Let’s hear one of your finest speeches, Liz.
DAME JUDI DENCH (reading from a Liz Truss speech):
‘I am the candidate
With a clear vision
For the future. Who
Can drive change
And get things done . .. ’
MELVYN BRAGG: How did you come up with those beautiful lines? ‘Drive change’ for instance. That’s a very striking image.
LIZ TRUSS: I was just chairing a meeting, staring into space, when those two words came to me out of nowhere, Melvyn. It was one of those magic moments. I felt truly inspired.
MELVYN BRAGG: And your unexpected use of the Old English word ‘things’ in the fourth line — ‘get things done’ is electrifying.
LIZ TRUSS: Thank you. It’s one of my favourite words, Melvyn. You see, it means so much — and nothing at all.
MELVYN BRAGG: To me, your finest work always has that paradox – ical quality. Thank you, Liz Truss.
Join me next week, when I’ll be talking to Rishi Sunak about his traumatic early years, and the inspiration behind some of his most remarkable tax rises.
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