AS the curtain fell this week on the second act of Westminster’s production of King Lear kindness and compassion seemed to have fled. Here and there, though, little acts of redemption could be glimpsed amidst the excursions and alarums. As MPs returned from the lobbies and another Brexit division there was Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader pausing to chat with Michael Gove, senior apostle of No Deal and profound adversary of Scottish nationalism. Their encounter was perhaps too brief to be called a proper chat but nor was it merely a cursory and peremptory greeting. We’ll never know what passed between them but their comportment hinted at mutual respect and even cordiality.

Before then, Nicholas Soames had provided us with a glimpse of that behavioural idiosyncrasy exclusive to high Tories; of eviscerating your opponent while conveying fondness and affection. Boris Johnson’s Brexit henchmen had come for him like thieves in the night to steal away his membership of his beloved Conservative Party. They couldn’t have hurt him more if they’d tarred and feathered him and placed him in the stocks and the hail-fellow jollity of his big coupon was creased in hurt. Even so, Sir Nicholas couldn’t quite bring himself to criticise the author of his misfortune and preferred instead to lament how his party was now no longer “a broad church”. He spoke of being comforted by the kindness of party colleagues and political foes from across the house.

The following day, Jo Johnson, younger brother of Boris, resigned his ministerial post and renounced his political inheritance rather than be seen publicly to damage his family. The tragic irony of Mr Johnson’s supreme act of selflessness is that it seemed to bear all those hallmarks of decency and rectitude that the Brexiters imagine sets their notion of Englishness apart from all others. Yet, here it was being exhibited by one who had become their implacable enemy. This week which seemed to signal unprecedented depths of social and cultural division across the UK had also produced many moments of basic human decency in this political crucible.

Not that the SNP will have wasted much time dwelling on Brexit consequences; they’ve had a rewarding week. The resignation of Ruth Davidson presaged opinion polls predicting another overwhelming SNP triumph in Westminster and Holyrood elections. Before the end of the week the Nationalists found themselves at the helm of the rebel alliance which had taken control of a Parliament they are seeking to leave. Of course they are content, as far as it goes, to join other opposition parties to seek to manipulate events so that no General Election takes place before No Deal Brexit is off the table. The SNP, though, can be a little more relaxed about it all: they have much bigger fish to fry which could result in independence and, in time, replacing the old UK as the 28th member of the European Union.

Even in their most wildly optimistic moments the SNP could not have hoped for the civil war which has convulsed the Conservatives. The self-inflicted wounds of this party which seeks always to embody strength, loyalty and stability will poison the Tory well for an entire political generation. This alone, though, is not what will provide succour to the SNP: it’s the sheer vindictiveness and ruthlessness with which the new Prime Minister and the unelected Svengali lurking in the shadows have gone about their business. In this they are confirming all the invective of the SNP aimed at the Tories which had gone before. It seems, after all, they really are a frightfully nasty shower. Jacob Rees-Mogg made a caricature of himself that eclipsed anything that the newspaper cartoon satirists could ever create. The Johnson/Cummings axis is all their old insults made flesh. Look, they even seem impervious to the prospect of food, fuel and medicine shortages and the breakdown of the rule of law. These may never happen but that Johnson and Rees-Mogg seem prepared to risk it at all speaks to something profoundly disturbing.

There doesn’t even seem anything to concern the SNP on their own doorsteps. Each year has recently begun with predictions that the stock of the Labour Party in Scotland cannot sink any lower and each year the party surprises us by discovering new depths. According to this week’s polls Screaming Lord Sutch would fancy his chances against most of their candidates. Meanwhile, the Scottish Tory contingent at Westminster has been exposed as political jackals, seemingly devoid of anything resembling a sincere principle. None have made any meaningful contributions over the course of the last two years. They seem instead to have used their terms as MPs as a means of making connections to feather their future careers.

It seems that the biggest threat to continued SNP dominance and their dream of an independent Scotland will come from within. They should take heed then of the warning issued this week by Kenny MacAskill, their former long-serving Justice Secretary, who has emerged in recent years as a voice crying in the wilderness counselling them against arrogance and an overweening sense of entitlement.

In an article in the Scottish Left Review, Mr MacAskill said: “When there are complaints over the handling of candidate selection and ranking, it’s in danger of becoming an abuse of power. The marginalisation of individuals – even some in senior elected roles but from without the inner circle – is damaging to the wider cause. There appears to be a fear – not just a reluctance – to have open debate because everything has to be politically managed and ‘on message’. Fundamental issues have been stifled when such discussions are often cathartic and inspirational.”

In recent months there has been evidence of a malevolent campaign of intimidation and harassment aimed at specific individuals who are deemed either to have been too close to Alex Salmond or not to have sufficiently bent the knee to the party executive. In one sinister development a candidate for the European elections was made aware that professed Christian beliefs might be considered problematic while others have been abused merely for upholding a belief in the equal human rights of unborn children according to their faith.

This week at Westminster Nicholas Soames said his party had been abducted by “a sect”. The SNP must be vigilant lest the same happen to them.