A social media post this week reminds us all of a withering verdict originally attributed to Oliver Brown who allegedly said that a "shiver ran round the Scottish MP's looking for a spine to run up." It's a jibe which might equally well be applied to two groups of legislators who have simultaneously mislaid their backbone.
One is those members of the House of Commons who know in their heart and and their head that Brexit will spell disaster for their constituents and their families, for the economy generally, for the Irish peace agreement and for their country's standing in the world. But who, for reasons of misguided party loyalty, or fear of reprisal at the next poll, or because they are just plain fushionless and devoid of smeddum, are allowing the Brexit train to charge on towards the buffers with nary a squeak of dissent.
The second are those Republican members of the US Congress who may privately be aghast at the ignorant bombast of the worst President in recorded history, but, with a handful of honourable exceptions, have chosen to put up with serial lying, incompetence, chicanery and chaos rather than put so much as an eyebrow above the parapet. Several of them, have chosen not to stand again in what are liable to be particularly blood stained mid term elections in November, but rather than honestly appraise the disastrous first year of The Donald, sieze upon any cliche by way of alibi for their collective cowardice.
Worst among equals is the House Speaker Paul Ryan who wants, with startling suddeness, to spend more time with his family. Or maybe his broker. He bears particular guilt for the onward march of Trumpism since he was in a unique position to rein in its most deplorable excesses. But then, of course, he got his cherished tax "reforms" through, guaranteeing a feather bedded retirement for the already wealthy, at the expense of the poor and sickly.
Back in Britain meanwhile we have the astonishing sight of a Tory government in open warfare with itself, unable after two years TWO YEARS!! to agree on what they want the Brexit endgame to be. Whilst on the other side of the negotiating table, the European team drum their fingers, and attempt to stop their jaws injuring themselves on the floor. This is incompetence on a grand and inglorious scale, but apparently not sufficiently disastrous to persuade the British public to vote for the official opposition according to all the polls. Perhaps because the official opposition is itself running around in verbal circles trying to find a formula which masks the divide in its own ranks.
It's difficult to recall a time when countries on either side of the Atlantic, in such mortal danger, were being served by so many second rate politicians. There are articulate, bright politicians around, of course there are. But unless and until they accept that saving their country's bacon is comprehensively more important than saving their party's face they are as much use as a chocolate teapot. Long past time for all good women and men to come to the aid of common sense before what they affect to hold dear goes down the tubes because these shivers are still failing to locate enough spines.