Westminster's Barmy Army

Fair play to the PM.  It takes some feat of political carpentry to construct a more dizzying revolving door than Mr Trump, this week's least wanted UK guest. We are somewhat inured to the sight of a procession of business/media cronies and failed four star  generals tumbling out of the madhouse on Pennsylvania Avenue. But the shock threshold is still sufficiently intact to gaze in wonder at the number of re-shuffles and sudden exits from number Ten Downing Street.

Not that the most recent departures are unwelcome.  Thoughout the non-negotiations with the EU, David Davis has had the inscoucient air of a man so lacking in self awareness that he doesn't understand how little he knows.  Not so much out of his depth, but in entirely the wrong pool. It is said he is personally charming. Charm is a pleasant quality - but not really a substitute for intellectual rigour when the stakes are as high as the Brexit variety.

Boris is in a class by himself. A mobile ego whose over vaulting ambition trumps any other possible consideration whether that be any notion of collective cabinet responsibility, personal  or party loyalty, or. indeed, the future of his country. It is baffling how anyone but himself seriously considers him Prime Ministerial material. His "careers" are littered with evidence of an inability to do anything resembling essential homework, and a facility for injecting "humour" into situations requiring the utmost seriousness. His terms as Foreign Secretary - surely a supreme example of miscasting - has been marked by serial gaffes, some of which have caused casual damage to the FCO's reputation, others - like his penchant for busking rather than reading his brief - which have resulted in personal tragedies  like the enhanced sentence to British Iranian Nanazin Zaraghin-Radcliffe.  

He is said to be intellectually gifted in the sense that he has an academic hinterland. That is a poor substitute for basic common sense, and  a discernable work ethic.  Neither are bluster and false bonhomie a useful replacement for application and measured response. His personal life is similarly littered with indiscretion and shameless disregard for propriety. Good riddance to a thorougly bad appointment which should long since have been terminated.

But where now?  The fact that this utterly shambolic administration should still be ahead in the UK polls tells its own story. It's not just widespread unease about Jeremy Corbyn's ability for the top job - though even those not unsympathetic to his world view share that concern - but the undeniable fact that on his watch the Labour Party has missed more open goals than the Panamanian second eleven. This government, properly opposed, should have been toast by now.  But it cannot be properly oppposed when the official opposition has signally failed to give any clearer indication than the government over how it would deal with Brexit.

Both camps deploy similarly weaselly phrases about frictionless borders and Irish solutions without putting an ounce of flesh on the bones of these tired soundbites. Only the onrushing disaster of a possible no deal has begun belatedly to concentrate a few minds.  I have little doubt that Keir Starmer - left to his own devices - might have made parliamentary mincemeat of Davis. But, as his broadcast interviews have demonstrated, he is required to toe an ever more mobile and confusing party line. While an unfettered Emily Thornberry in full flight is more than a match for the lazy bluster of Boris. But as a team they have signally failed to rise to the challenge. 

They could have had the government voted down on more than one occasion had they got their collective act together, or not taken the absention route. They could have rallied their party and the country behind the call for a People's Vote on any deal.  What else after all are the People's Party for?  

Meanwhile in Scotland Ruth Davidson, once a true blue standard bearer for Remain, watches as her army of lightweights throw in their lot with whatever Mrs May comes up with - when they're not otherwise engaged running the line at a football match. You might have thought that candidates who saw off some of the most experienced SNP heavyweights would by now have made some sort of mark.  Instead it's now dispiritingly clear that they largely benefitted from riding a particular political wave (as the SNP did in the previous general election). Some of their interventions on social media and elsewhere have shown a quite remarkable lack of basic knowledge. As for David Mundell. To call his performance as a supposed spokesman for his country's best interests utterly embarrassing is about the kindest adjective anyone could apply. 

We know from Brexit secretary Mike Russell's dispatches from the front that the UK team has reneged on all the promises of   consultation in areas where there are crucial Scottish concerns. And indeed throughout the Brexit process as a whole, such as there has been one. We know that Michael Gove could and would sell out the Scottish Fishing industry in a heartbeat were it a useful bargaining chip. We know that the Holyrood parliament is so respected by the UK Government that they  are going to the Supreme Court in London to try and have our Continuity Bill - passed by all parties  to protect the devolved settlement - declared unconstitutional. We know that Westminster plans to take back devolved powers for at least seven years if it succeeds. We know that it believes itself to be sovereign in all matters regardless of invididual national interests.

I'm not sure what else anyone needs to know before concluding that our only hope of salvation is to win independence and bend every sinew to securing a place for Scotland within a reformed Europe.  There is real anger our there now. And real passion. I have no particular knowledge of what the Scottish Government is doing backstage to advance this country's European cause if Brexit really does hit the rocks. I do know that there is a vocal, powerful and committed civilian  army out there ready  to  expend every effort to secure a yes vote in the next referendum.