IF a week is a long time, six weeks is an eternity in politics, and it is far too early to make any guesses about even the likely course of the election campaign. It would be foolhardy to predict the outcome. Except, perhaps, that it will be divisive.

That’s because the central issue, Brexit, is by its nature divisive. In Scotland, we have the additional but equally divisive issue of independence. Current polling and conventional wisdom suggest that the Conservatives should obtain a majority across England and Wales, and the SNP will perform very strongly in Scotland. But as the last general election campaign and the current unreliability of polling have shown, those apparent positions could be quite different by December 12.

There are the usual unforeseeable factors of any campaign: blunders by candidates, external events, issues other than those the parties anticipate (or want) coming to the fore. Even without those, however, the arithmetic is fiendishly tricky to calculate. No one knows the degree to which, for example, support for the Conservatives – or, for that matter, many Labour MPs – may be undermined by the Brexit Party. Nor the extent to which tactical voting against Brexit may benefit the Liberal Democrats or the SNP.

It is assumed that the strength of Remain sentiment bodes well for the Nationalists, but 38 per cent (the Leave vote) is not a negligible proportion of the electorate – it’s more than the SNP secured at the last general election, when they took 60 per cent of the country’s Westminster seats. And if the focus turns from Brexit to a second independence referendum, it is as likely that Unionists will vote tactically as it is that Remain and Leave voters will. Given the number of marginal seats, how hotly they will be contested, and the first-past-the-post system, any of the parties could see gains being offset by losses.

The picture is just as unclear elsewhere in the UK; splits in either the Leave or Remain votes could allow unexpected gains for almost any party. But if politicians and their most vehement supporters can have no certainty about the results, nor should they claim a monopoly on the truth, or moral virtue, of their arguments.

One expects candidates and activists to paint themselves in the best light, and their opponents in the worst, but division should not be exploited to mislead and to coarsen public discourse. Even before the campaigns have begun, there have been unpleasant instances of abuse – and equally dangerous attempts to claim robust criticism, within the normal bounds of political speech, amounts to abuse. There may be little prospect of restraining the more extreme rhetoric which appears on social media, but the electorate deserve an effort from those who seek their vote to conduct themselves honestly, and to give consideration in their thinking, rhetoric and pledges to those who may vehemently disagree with their position.

Division may be unavoidable; we may also fail, in the end, to get a genuinely decisive result. But it ought not to be too much to ask for an election campaign conducted on all sides without derision, denunciation and deceit.

Lord Provost's resignation

When is an ‘error of judgement’ a quitting matter in our largely discredited world of politics? Glasgow’s Lord Provost Eva Bolander’ £8,000 expenses for her nails and 23 pairs of shoes caused embarrassment in the corridors of power but she retained the full support of the SNP city council leader and the First Minister.

Days later, a General Election is called and she is a now seen as an electoral liability hence her ‘resignation’ . Pity doing the right thing only appears to count when it is politically expedient.

Imagine Rev I.M. Jolly on social media

As if Thought for the Day were not bad enough, a new menace has emerged in the form of the “Instagram Vicar”. A Church of England vicar, Chris Lee, has added 100,000 followers on the platform to his parishioners in west London, and earned comparisons with TV comedy Fleabag’s “hot priest” for his mission to “invade social media with a message of hope”. We can only regret that the Rev I.M. Jolly, Scotland’s own master of the media homily, did not survive into the age of Instagram, or add Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat to the outlets for his inspirational spiritual message. Think of the lols. Not.