WE will not, of course, know the identity of Boris Johnson’s successor as Conservative leader, and thus the next Prime Minister, until Monday lunchtime. The signs are – and have been, for a while – that the winner will be Liz Truss.

Given that she and Rishi Sunak were competing to win the votes of a mere 180,000-200,000 party members, who between them make up less than one per cent of the UK population, the leadership election has taken up far too much time.

The urgency of the need to have a new Prime Minister in post has been spoken of, time and time and time again. As Michael Gove puts it, the accumulating crises – in energy, the cost of living, public finances, Ukraine, the labour market – will test governments across the globe. These are serious times. We have been without active political leadership for what seems like an indecent length of time.

While both major parties have in the past replaced one leader with another without consulting the country at large, there was surely there was an argument to be made in this latest case for the process to be speeded up. It has, if nothing else, hindered long-term policy planning,

Both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss travelled across Britain to address party hustings. Journalists were allowed to be present but not to ask questions of the candidates. Both appeared on televised hustings, but while Mr Sunak submitted to testing interviews with both Andrew Neil and Nick Robinson, Ms Truss unwisely decided not to follow suit.

Mr Neil is particularly combative but Mr Sunak gave a good account of himself. The former LibDem MP Lynn Featherstone adroitly tweeted that if Ms Truss had been watching the interview she would run a mile. But she should do it, Ms Featherstone added. “It’s not right to run and hide just because you’re in the lead”.

Ms Truss’s team decided, very late in the day, that she was “too busy” to be interviewed by Mr Robinson. In a previous interview with him she had been embarrassed when she struggled to name a single economist who supported her economic plans. In that context, it might be thought that she would be ill-advised to submit to a fresh grilling; but this deliberately misses the point that such robust interviews, such accountability, matter for the health of our democracy.

“In this contest”, the thwarted Mr Robinson noted, “tens of millions of people have had no say in the choice of their own leader. They want to see and hear their leaders questioned, challenged and tested”. His interview with Mr Sunak was watched by two million people. Ms Truss opted instead for a tame interview on GB News, in which the questions were the polar opposite of robust.

Ms Truss’s unwillingness to have her policies scrutinised further matters because the public needs to know how she is proposing to deal with the many issues that are clamouring for attention.

Again, to quote Nick Robinson: “The prospect of soaring energy bills is already terrifying millions of people. They know, as Truss does, that the policies she has so far promised – a cut in national insurance and taking so-called “green levies” off gas and electricity bills – won’t help all those who don’t pay tax and don’t run big businesses.

“Her promise to focus on a ‘Conservative solution’ to energy bills – tax cuts, not, what she calls, handouts – raises big questions about whether it will reach the people who need the money most and do so quickly enough to avoid real hardship in a few weeks’ time”.

Despite there being a constant tumult of bad news – warnings of lives being lost in the winter, predictions by Goldman Sachs of a 22% rise in inflation next year – the leadership campaign has barely betrayed any urgency. Is the £30bn tax cut proposed by Ms Truss really the answer – one, moreover, that will be to the benefit of the better-off? She has pledged no new taxes, has rejected calls for an increase in the windfall tax on energy companies (profit, she insisted, is not a “dirty word”) and has ruled out any rationing of energy this winter. Was this wise, given that the unprecedented scale of the energy and cost-of-living crisis might yet force her into early U-turns?

While understandably reluctant to announce her plans in full before she winds up in No.10, Ms Truss has in the meantime confined herself to platitudes of the most complacent kind.

Writing in a right-leaning tabloid newspaper this week, she said that, if elected, she would “lead the British people through the economic storm with my clear and truly Conservative plan. My agenda is focused on seeing us through to better days and unleashing Britain’s full potential. We will get through these tough times by going for growth”. The “economic pie” will, she said, be grown “through bold action such as tax cuts, decisive reforms and slashing senseless red tape”.

Perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves. Perhaps Ms Truss’s economic plan, once she has “got my feet under the table”, will succeed, with taxes being cut, rampant inflation being brought under control, and pro-growth measures restoring some lustre to an economy that badly needs them.

Her reluctance to submit to rigorous interviews makes it difficult, however, for ordinary voters to assess her qualities as leader-in-waiting. Her erratic performances in the past, as in a keynote speech she gave last year, when she spoke of rebuilding the “muscle” of “Global Britain” give us pause, too.

Her shameless channelling of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher when posing for photographs on a tank in Estonia, and her bizarre speech about cheese imports, at the 2014 Tory conference, are reminders of the odder, more unsettling aspects of her behaviour. Ultimately, is she really just a “pound-shop Thatcher”, as one Tory MP alleges?

Other questions arise. Can she possibly keep the ‘red wall’ voters onside when she is intent on, for example, shrinking the state? Can she win over those two-thirds of Tory MPs who do not currently back her? And can she spur her weary party to a general election victory over a resurgent Labour Party? We shall find out.