AN AGE OF TOO MANY POLITICAL PYGMIES

This morning I watched the Obama eulogy to Senator John McCain; eloquent, literate, delivered with assurance and precision.  All the signs of a consummate orator and communicator. Later I tried hard to scroll quickly past the latest hysterial tweet from his successor; typically self referential, hostile, and the hallmark of a man barely on nodding acquaintance with the English language. Alongside his increasingly hysterical ranting, George W. Bush, speaking at the same funeral as Obama, sounded almost magisterial.

This morning I read the latest incontintent ravings of the former Foreign Secretary as he used his column in the Daily Telegraph to trash the premier who (inexplicably) had appointed him to what had once been the great offices of state. What was clear from Boris' latest broadside was a) that he had absolutely no gameplan of his own for the Brexit debacle he had helped engender and b) beneath all the bluster he knew what disasters might lie ahead and was already knitting an implausible alibi. (Would all have been all right if you'd done it my way.) As we say in Glasgow, Mr Johnson. Aye. Right.

This morning I read two high profile Labour supporters argue that Frank Field's resignation was alternatively the last desperate throw of a man about to be defenestrated, or the first desperate shot in a bid to save the party from the more militant Corybynistas.

This year I have watched as the the Prime Minister of the country descended into shrill, repetetive sound bites; variations on the it'll be all right on the night theme, although you assume she knows that this can be no more than wishful fantasising given the impossibility of squaring the circle on the Irish border issue, or having little Liam Fox suddently transform into  deal maker extraordinaire and produce many billions of new global trade deals. The liklihood of which is akin to my winning gold for the decathlon in the Tokyo olympics.

This year I have watched as the Leader of the official opposition spurned  more open goals than an overweight striker for a poorly performing pub team. Much is made of his integrity and steadfast support for causes he has championed over three decades and more. That may be entirely admirable, or it may speak of a certain inflexibiity of mindset. What it is not is an automatic qualification to lead a party or a country.  Mr Corbyn, in my view, is not Prime Ministerial material. Few people are. But one of the qualities required is an ability to respond to crisis with decisive thought and action. Nothing about the anti semitism row suggests he possesses such a skillset.

In fact looking around the Westminster cabinet and shadow cabinet, there are precious few signs of quality; too few glimpses of the kind of intellectual rigour, oratorical prowess, and that indefinable ability to command respect even from opponents that the political greats all possess. This is an arena with too may pygmies where once real giants bestrode the chamber.  Neither do I believe this is merely a woman of a certain age donning the obligatory rose coloured viewing aids as she looks backwards to another age.  

Observe the languid idiocy of Jacob Rees Mogg; insulated from post Brexit financial debacles by his wealth and his not at all incidental move of some of the latter to the Irish Republic and thus to the EU.  Watch, if you can bear it, the scarcely subtle leadership manoeuverings of Johnson, Gove and Co. Reflect that every portfolio Chris Grayling touches turns to ashes, yet propels him into fresh ministerial pastures. Contemplate the thought that Jeremy Hunt after presiding over serial crises at Health has been rewarded with the Foreign Office.  View the Tory party imploding as the Brextremists hurl molotov cocktails at their own colleagues, whilst the Labour Party's own internecine wars prevent it vanquishing the most incompetent government in recent history.

All this would be dispiriting enough were we living through normal times rather than clinging with fingernails to a European Union which has many and varied flaws, but which still offers us the best bet for future peace and prosperity.  Last month in Edinburgh I met the erstwhile Greek finance minister Yannis Varoufakis.  Given his bruising encounters with the European Commission and the Central Bank and his subsequent resignation over the terms of the Greek bailout, you might imagine him to be the most hostile of eurosceptics.  Instead he argues passionately that you can only reform Europe from within, not shouting impotently from the outside.

There will be no People's Vote on Brexit, intones Mrs May.  She said much the same, with much the same emphasis, about there being no election before 2020. Until she held one.  Let's hope that this latest prediction has the same life expectancy.  Meanwhile in Scotland, as they say, we can only hope that Europe, aware of the huge majority for Remain, will look favourably on a solution which ultimately allows us a new relationship with our European neighbours. Scotland in Europe? There's a slogan in there somewhere.