I RECKON I knew that my faith in politics had just about been exhausted when I found myself looking at Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson and thinking, that when it comes to their handling of coronavirus, there’s really no difference between them.

That’s quite a personal political upheaval for someone who’s spent most of the last few years criticising and mocking Johnson and, if not explicitly supporting or defending Sturgeon, at least reflecting positively on her personal qualities as a politician.

Not to put too fine a point on it, my long view of the two leaders until now has been this: Johnson has been an ass since he first appeared on the public stage and remains an ass; Sturgeon may be staid, but she’s always handled herself with relative dignity and professionalism. Her heart seemed in the right place; her brain engaged in the real world.

However, on the issue of coronavirus I struggle to see any real distinction when it comes to the way they’ve tackled the outbreak – apart from presentation. Johnson, as usual, cannot drop the bumbling public schoolboy act, despite a brush with death, and clings to his excruciatingly bad rhetoric, in the hope that mountebank words and lame metaphors will lend the impression of leadership. Sturgeon is her usual calm and measured self.

But presentation doesn’t matter a damn when people are dying in such dreadful numbers. I couldn’t care less if Johnson stood on his head wearing a clown suit as long as he saved lives. Equally, Sturgeon may give the impression that she’s cut from the same cloth as Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand premier destined for the history books over her handling of coronavirus, but the First Minister’s actions don’t speak louder than her words.

Care homes are graveyards. We’re only just starting to talk properly about ‘testing, tracing and isolation’ despite the WHO saying this was the route out of the pandemic, and despite lessons that should have been learned from other countries, like South Korea, which successfully implemented intelligent public protection strategies. Testing itself has been shambolic at best, politicised at worst. PPE is a disgrace. There’s an army of volunteers unused.

To cap it all, our political leaders tell us to clap and cheer for our ‘NHS heroes’. It’s patronising nonsense. A wickedly cynical exercise in distraction. When a nurse is paid as much as a bank manager then I’ll believe our leaders care about the NHS.

Both the British and Scottish governments have been ineffectual, dithering, dilatory, slippery, and confused. The two at the top must take responsibility: Johnson and Sturgeon.

Our leaders use coronavirus press conferences as a political shield. Standing in front of cameras and talking gives the impression of leadership. Let’s see action instead.

That’s not to let their underlings in cabinet or party off the hook. I’d sooner have Sturgeon than any one of her MPs or MSPs. And while it’s true when I say that I’d prefer Johnson to the likes of Michael Gove or Dominic Raab, that’s also like saying I’d prefer this glass of strychnine to that glass of cyanide.

Nor am I implying that the opposition parties are any better – far from it. In Scotland, what even is the Tory or Labour Party anymore? And the LibDems? Ask most folk under 25 who Richard Leonard or Jackson Carlaw are and they’ll probably think you’re taking about some singer in a prog rock band from the 1970s like Rick Wakeman. Willie Rennie is so far under the radar he must be in a submarine.

Westminster is just as bad. UK Labour is the worst joke ever thought up, with Keir Starmer trying to channel some socialist version of Tony Blair, like Trotsky in a pinstripe suit. The LibDems? Abysmal. Embarrassing. Pointless. As intellectually stimulating as chloroform.

The malaise goes into the marrow of both the SNP and the Scottish government, and the Tory Party and the UK government. Look at their supporters – both clinging to their petty nationalisms while people die. Scottish nationalists lose no opportunity to bang the drum for independence – a sound that’s become increasingly ugly and empty as the SNP base becomes more fractious and unpleasant. And I say that as someone who voted Yes and would vote Yes again. I’m no nationalist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the success of small nations.

British nationalists, because let’s be clear, that’s what current Toryism is, is still mainlining on Brexit, revelling in cloying wartime nostalgia, small-minded distrust of anything beyond the white cliffs of Dover, and an England First exceptionalism which makes everyday xenophobia seem enlightened.

While bodies mount up, the Tories and the SNP go on fantasising about the constitution, injecting it into the national conversation. To say that’s wearying and inappropriate is the understatement of this dreadful century.

The two parties’ cheerleaders in the media are just as bad. Journalists, who should have an almost hippocratic desire to speak the truth as best as they see it, twist and spin for whatever petty nationalism they’re in hock too, scribbling propaganda while their idols fiddle and Rome burns.

There’s only one thing I hope coronavirus kills: politics in its current form. I’ve been running on empty when it comes to politics since the Iraq War in 2003. Deliberate, manipulative, political lies and a mountain of dead bodies shattered my belief in politics as a force for good. But I was still young then and so some hope remained. Come the financial crash of 2008, I saw politics as one giant trick played on ordinary people for the benefit of the rich.

In corona-time, politics isn’t just wicked, or out to con us like hustlers, it’s so useless that it’s killing us.

The idea of picking a side when it comes to politics in its current form confounds me. Each of us should be like the boy in the story of the Emperor’s new clothes. We should stand and point and laugh at politicians – because that’s pretty much all they’re fit for, mockery. They aren’t leaders, they aren’t clever, they aren’t capable. Point and laugh at them until they quit the stage and then maybe once this horror show of an illness is over, we can find a way to reshape how we govern ourselves.

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