It is said, in at least one account, that a Victorian era production of “Antony and Cleopatra” produced a prim response in a theatrical whisper from a member of the audience.

Noting with distaste the Egyptian excesses, one woman apparently turned to her husband and muttered: “How unlike the home life of our own dear Queen.”

Shakespeare, I feel certain, would have been amused at the impact of his stagecraft.

In politics, just as in the theatre, which it closely resembles, our elected tribunes often feel obliged to put on a show to attract the attention and the support of the lieges.

We may thrill to the villain for a while. Sooner or later, though, we will turn to Everyman, to a character who is or appears to be empathetic.

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For much of the last century, since universal suffrage, democratically elected politicians have had to present an image of commonality, in order to build as broad a voting base as possible.

It is no longer feasible for a duke to occupy Downing Street. We require a collective sense that our leaders have our broad interests in mind when they seek office.

Hence the elevation of quasi-mythical target voters such as White Van Man and Worcester Woman. Or the adoption of demotic speech. Our leaders must have an extraordinary desire to appear ordinary.

Rishi Sunak has just lost that chance. It ended with the £5m tax bill, apparently paid by his party chairman, Nadhim Zahawi.

Including, we are to understand, a penalty for “carelessness”. This, mind you, levied from a former Chancellor of the Exchequer. You know, the Revenue’s boss. (And, incidentally, the MP for Shakespearean Stratford.)

Why does this land directly at the feet of Rishi Sunak? Might he not just dispense with Mr Zahawi, once he receives the report from his ethics adviser?

Too late. For one thing, Mr Sunak is First Lord of the Treasury, directly responsible for the UK’s finances. In addition, as party leader, he must burnish the image presented by senior Tories.

The First Lord looked hopelessly weak and indecisive, responding to questions in the Commons this week from Sir Keir Starmer and Stephen Flynn.

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But there is another point, which arises from the economic circumstances assailing the people – and the contrast with Mr Sunak et al.

In the Commons, both Sir Keir and Mr Flynn, both Labour and SNP, took care to highlight the personal wealth of the PM and his family.

Sir Keir referred obliquely to the controversy last year when Mr Sunak’s wife had to surrender her Non Dom tax status. Mr Flynn said the row blighted the PM’s own integrity. Borrowing from Burns, he said the Tories were seen as “a parcel of rogues”.

It worked. In vain, the PM tried to connect Sir Keir to Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader. He talked of support for Scotland.

For now, nobody is listening. I wonder if the PM fully appreciates the disgust felt by struggling families when they hear of the Tory chairman blithely repaying millions in tax – more than they will earn in a lifetime of hard work.

By chance, this week, I ventured on a very rare shopping expedition. To Glasgow city centre. Buchanan Street, since you ask.

Once more, I elevated my eyes and admired the magnificent buildings. But those eyes also turned to shuttered shops – and a dearth of paying customers.

OK, it was a weekday in January. But folk are really feeling the pain.

Only this week, we learned from The Herald that households have endured the highest rise in energy bill arrears for more than a decade.

The Federation of Small Businesses said confidence had fallen again in their “constant battle to just survive”. And the number of new cars made in Britain is now at the lowest for 66 years.

To be fair to Rishi Sunak, he appreciates the quandary. He resigned from the anarchy of the Boris Johnson government. He over-turned the neo-liberal zeal of the Liz Truss inter-regnum.

And his Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, is trying to salvage the economy. In his latest speech, Mr Hunt sets out aims to encourage enterprise and tackle poor productivity.

In passing, I might note that these aims pretty much match the objectives set out in the Scottish Government’s ten year economic plan. As with the SG scheme, I remain to be convinced.

For one thing, the Hunt package is aspirational, rather than action forming. Perhaps that is inevitable, in this early phase of post Covid recovery.

But the Chancellor also talks of “using our new-found Brexit freedoms” to cut red tape and liberate companies.

We shall see. But perhaps we might note that this statement comes from the Treasury which previously forecast, accurately as it turned out, that Brexit would cut UK output.

Even if it works, this plan is unlikely to transform the economy in time for the UK General Election, expected next year.

There is a more fundamental point. Rishi Sunak’s personal standing is undermined by the events of the past week. It might be the moment when his relatively slim chances of electoral victory faded entirely.

Picture the scene. Thursday, Chequers, the PM’s country retreat. The Cabinet – Nadhim Zahawi included – have been invited for political strategy talks.

The hesitant glances, the muttered conversations, the moments of silence. Worst of all, the forced bonhomie.

“Nadhim, great to see you, how are things? Listen, listen, forget all this nonsense, you know I’m on your side. You know that, don’t you? Don’t you?”

Perhaps accompanied by a firm handshake. Or, in extremis, a Clintonesque clutch of the elbow.

Again, the Downing Street ethics adviser may be entirely satisfied. By this time next week, Mr Zahawi may once more be confidently chairing the Conservative Party and fulfilling the onerous duties of a Minister without Portfolio.

Or he may have left office. Either way, Opposition leaders will seek to ensure that the issue of disproportionate personal wealth adheres to Rishi Sunak – and will seek to contrast that with the miserable condition of the populace.

In politics, things can change. But, as things stand, those Opposition tactics are likely to work.