HER Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition exists, as the name suggests, to oppose the Government of the day.

It is, after all, its role, its democratic duty to scrutinise, challenge and harry the Prime Minister and the Government over every jot and tittle of their policies.

At times, subtlety and intelligence will be called for, at others, forcefulness and guile and all to serve the national interest; and, of course, ensure the other lot becomes the next Opposition.

But as the country bands together in solidarity to survive the ravages of the demon coronavirus, where are the grumbling, goading gremlins of the Opposition?

In these strange and turbulent times when the normal gravity of politics has, by decency and necessity, been suspended and its purveyors are floating around being awfully nice to and supportive of each other, will it mean voters’ opinions of parties, politicians and their policies begin to change?

Boris Johnson, normally a Marmite politician of the first degree, has understandably got even his most fiercesome of critics showing solidarity and desperately praying for his full recovery.

The Clap for Boris, which would, in normal times among his detractors, have caused faces to grimace and stomachs to turn, now reflects the sentiment of the whole country; we are all rooting for Boris.

Indeed, Nicola Sturgeon, hitherto not the most fervent of the PM’s fans, earlier this week touched upon how adversity brought us all together on a fundamental level.

"Right now,” the First Minister declared, “all of us are just human beings united in a fight against this virus. Now – and I'm sure I do this on behalf of all of Scotland – I want to send every good wish to him, to his fiancee and to his whole family. We are all willing you on Boris. Get well soon."

Of course, while everyone would agree that in such times showing solidarity and co-operation is the right and proper way forward, there are limits.

While the Prime Minister and his colleagues have spoken of adopting a wartime approach to beating the virus, when the question of forming a government of national unity is mentioned, feet are shuffled, eyes are cast down and the issue is quickly moved on.

The idea of Keir Starmer and Ms Sturgeon sitting around Mr Johnson’s virtual Cabinet table is an intriguing one but it looks likely never to happen.

Indeed, the new Labour leader has taken over as Leader of the Opposition when the time is out of joint; when he has to temper his normal political instincts and, as he himself put it, not carp but help.

Within hours of seizing the Labour crown, Sir Keir set out his approach: “Not opposition for opposition’s sake. I’m not going to score party political points and I won’t demand the impossible…I’ve pointed out mistakes for the purpose of ensuring they are put right.”

For those pining for the return of the rough and tumble of politics, it may be a long wait.

As we get past the first part of this world war against Covid-19, tackling the urgency of the health crisis, the second part, the economic crisis, will have to be dealt with and could take many years to get through.

With the Conservative Government spending its way through the next few years at levels even Jeremy Corbyn could only have dreamed of at the General Election, how difficult will it be for Sir Keir and his colleagues to complain that not enough money is being spent and the wrong priorities are being implemented.

Indeed, the economic storm that the country is about to navigate its way through could affect all manner of policies, not least the constitutional one that has dominated Scottish political life for the past decade and more.

In 2014, the key issue which helped determine the outcome was the economy. Project Fear successfully played on people’s uncertainties about independence. The non-aligned third of the electorate, who ultimately determined the decision for Scotland to remain part of the UK, decided the economic risk was too great and stuck with the devil it knew.

While Ms Sturgeon has “paused” her demand for a second poll until after the 2021 Holyrood election, the backdrop to any referendum in the near future would still be one of battling to get the economy’s health back on track.

No doubt, some supporters of independence would insist that an independent Scotland as part of the EU would be able to weather the economic storm better than being shackled to the UK.

But I suspect the fear factor would loom even larger given the eye-watering amounts of new debt an independent Scotland would have to bear.

Because a party leader only demands a referendum when they think they can win it, the coronavirus crisis and its damage to the economy may have put paid to the First Minister’s hope of holding indyref2 any time soon.

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