THERE’S only a week to go until we find out who our next Prime Minister will be. The Conservative leadership contest has dragged on throughout the summer, inspiring very few and exciting absolutely nobody.

And that’s not just because we already know who the winner will be. But for a miracle (or a last-minute front-page splash which reveals a penchant for murdering puppies), Liz Truss will soon become prime minister. God help us all.

During the battle for power we’ve witnessed over the last few months, some uncomfortable truths have been revealed. Namely, that neither candidate fully understands the scale of the challenge facing the UK. The cost of living emergency is going to hit it like a wrecking ball.

Last week, the news we were fearing became a reality. The energy price cap is set to rise by a further 80% from October, meaning that the average household will be paying £3549 a year.

Some bills will be much higher. Those who live in poorly-insulated homes, have large families or are elderly will obviously need to use more energy than the average household does.

The short-term impact of this news is grimly predictable. Families will struggle to adequately heat their homes as autumn arrives and the temperature begins to drop. People will face a truly horrendous choice between heating and eating.

Household debt will begin to rise and with that will come additional stress and anxiety heaped upon a population that has just been through the emotional strain of a two-year pandemic.

Longer term, the picture looks even worse. Like households, many businesses simply won’t be able to afford to keep the lights on. We’re heading for a recession. Things can’t get much worse.

Given all that, it should be re-assuring that a new prime minister will soon be in place and able to get to work on tackling the crisis.

Boris Johnson’s zombie government has been on holiday over the summer. Technically, we still have a functioning government but practically, we don’t. But the prospect of Liz Truss taking over will do little to ease the worries of people across the UK.

Shamefully, the outright favourite to win has been allowed to get this far in the contest without actually setting out any credible plans for dealing with the cost of living emergency.

Much like her predecessor, she’s shown a total lack of seriousness when it comes to the issues facing the country.

She’s relied on soundbites when what people are desperately crying out for are solutions.

She looks set to follow the well-worn path of the Johnson era. She’ll initially resist a meaningful package of support (spouting nonsense about “handouts” as she does so) before performing a screeching U-turn when it becomes obvious that her position isn’t sustainable.

But while we wait for that future U-turn, the uncertainty that has been allowed to grow will breed fear and panic. A competent political party that had actually learned some lessons from the Boris chaos years would intervene early to avoid the need for that.

The mood across the UK is shifting. You can almost feel it. There’s real anger about the fact that ordinary people are being expected to navigate a set of circumstances that are frankly inhumane.

Let’s skip the nonsense “tips” from Conservative MPs about how putting on a jumper can help bring your heating bill down. We don’t need lectures about how, as a society, we’re too reliant on luxuries like warmth and light, and how other generations managed to survive without them.

For the vast majority of people, these energy prices are simply unaffordable. There’s no room in the budget to accommodate an extra thousands of pounds a year and no rainy day fund to tap into either.

It can’t be done. And the sooner politicians (and the media) agree on that basic point, the better for us all.

There is nothing the public can do to meet this challenge. Even Martin Lewis – the king of money-saving advice – has said as much.

The Conservative Party loves nothing more than to outsource its policy failures to ordinary people and the charity sector, but the scale of this crisis is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It requires political leadership and unfortunately for us, Liz Truss is going to be the person tasked with the job.

Maybe I’m being cynical and she’s just been keeping all her empathy and bold ideas under wraps for the past eight weeks. Maybe she does have a plan to tackle the cost of living emergency that she just didn’t think to mention during the leadership contest.

For all our sakes, I hope that implausible scenario comes to pass. Because the alternative is a new prime minister with no more insight into the struggles facing ordinary people than the last one had.