HAS Liz Truss become Boris Johnson’s secret weapon as he fights to salvage what remains of his premiership? With each sullen interview given by his supercilious Foreign Secretary the besieged Prime Minister seems to inch his way closer to salvation. You might consider Mr Johnson to be inept; verbally incontinent and irretrievably estranged from the truth but look what’s coming next.

On twitching awake each morning the Prime Minister has two questions uppermost in his mind: have the Russians invaded Ukraine yet and did we manage to persuade Liz Truss to do the 7.30am interview slot on BBC Breakfast. In normal circumstances a politician as imperilled as Mr Johnson would be eager to bring a swift conclusion to the investigation into Downing Street’s year-long Covid festival. Not Mr Johnson.

The Metropolitan Police said yesterday it had asked for “minimal reference" in Ms Gray’s report to events they are investigating to avoid prejudicing its own inquiries. It means her report – if it’s sent next week – could become a new variant of Wordle.

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“There is clear and unambiguous evidence linking a credit card belonging to J--- D------- (who may or may not work in the office of ------- --------) to the purchase of a small ------ which may or may not have been used as a receptacle for the storage of -- bottles of ------- --------."

All factors delaying publication of the Downing Street party report are music to the Prime Minister’s ears. It gives more time for Russia to invade Ukraine, thus providing an opportunity for Mr Johnson to channel his inner Churchill. And it provides several more interview opportunities for Ms Truss to traumatise the electorate and show us that her boss might not be so bad after all.

Daniel O’Connell, the great champion of Catholic Emancipation in the 19th century likened the smile of Sir Robert Peel to “the gleam of wintry sunshine on the brass handles of a coffin”. This was, perhaps a little unkind. In the unlovely history of Conservative Prime Ministers, Sir Robert was by no means the worst. He was not generally regarded as a warm man and even Queen Victoria thought he was “cold, unfriendly and disagreeable”.

You hesitate to disparage politicians for possessing physical characteristics that might not flatter them. But when Liz Truss is being interviewed she seems to contrive a smile designed to chill the blood of her interlocutor. It starts at the edge of her mouth and finishes there. It conveys something between absolute contempt and utter disdain. “I’m an important person and you are not.”

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It was evident this week when she was openly scornful of the suggestion that agreeing to be photographed atop a British Army tank in Estonia last November was ill-advised. Margaret Thatcher had famously adopted a similarly belligerent pose in Germany in 1986 when her post-Falklands, Iron Lady bit was starting to wane. Ms Truss claimed she was merely “showing our strong support for freedom and democracy in Eastern Europe and that's what I'm focused on in my job”.

Even Mr Johnson at his chaotic, shambling worst at least tries to convey a sense that he acknowledges the reasons why he’s being questioned. Ms Truss, like her cabinet colleague Jacob Rees-Mogg, seems to think that being asked tough questions is an act of sedition.

This week it was also revealed that the Foreign Secretary had opted to take a private jet to Australia costing £500,000 rather than use a regular, scheduled flight from London. She had travelled to Australia on a “defence and trade mission”. Quite why this trip was considered vital to the defence of the realm is not explained. And will it yield a sudden trade windfall to help replace the lost Brexit deals? We probably wouldn’t even have begrudged her a first-class ticket costing around £5k. Nor did her requisitioning of a private jet get her to Australia any quicker or provide greater security. You’re left to conclude that she considered half a million pounds money well spent if it spared her the sweaty company of the common people, even though they be affluent common people.

Ms Truss said the Government plane was available “precisely so that Government ministers can travel. That is why we have a government plane: to enable government ministers to conduct government business.”

The Foreign Secretary didn’t always possess such a profligate attitude to spending tax-payers’ money. In 2009 she co-authored a policy paper urging her fellow public sector workers to deploy a measure of rectitude. ”Every public sector worker should feel personal responsibility for the money they spend and the money they save. They should spend taxpayers’ money with at least the care they would give to their own.”

The final bill for the Foreign Secretary’s Australian “defence” trip may be egregiously higher than a mere £500k. She recently hosted a £3000 lunch with a US trade envoy at a private club owned by Robin Birley, who donated £20k to Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign and is the half-brother of Zac Goldsmith, the UK Environment Minister.

According to The Guardian, civil servants recoiled at the cost and referred it to the Department for International Trade. Eventually, the restaurant agreed to reduce the bill but insisted on immediate payment thus forcing government staff to trigger an emergency payment process.

In other news, the UK Government this week discovered yet another way to punish those who are already struggling with massive increases in the cost of living. Their Way to Work campaign will penalise benefit claimants if they haven’t found work inside four weeks – down from three months – and corral them into jobs for which they are ill-suited. Taken with zero-hours contracts and fire-and-rehire practices it’s designed to strip Britain’s most poorly-paid workers of all vestiges of dignity and self-esteem.

Perhaps they’ll find comfort in Ms Truss’s justification for blowing £500k on a private jet trip. It was “specifically so ministers, like me in my role as foreign secretary, can go and do the work overseas which is ultimately delivering for the British people”. Three cheers for the People’s Minister.

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