AS our journey out of lockdown gathers pace, we’ll all be impelled to reconsider the definition of the word "elite": what a battering this idiom has taken over these last three months. There was a time not long ago when it implied a hallowed grouping marked out for high achievement by dint of possessing gifts greater than the rest of society. No longer.

The left is eternally suspicious, to the point of paranoia, of the elites that manage the UK’s affairs. Yet, in the most authentic understanding of the word, you would want people of superior minds and abilities to be making all the big choices. Who cares how many of them have been churned out of the Oxbridge conditioning factories? Can they make quick decisions under pressure that keep us safe? Can they be trusted to act in the best interests of the majority? Can they heed the advice of experts in the field and deliver it lucidly so that the population knows what the devil is actually going on?

Yet such has been the shambolic performance of the UK Government during coronavirus that we must now reach for a word that implies anti-elite. The procession of UK ministers sent stumbling out each day to walk the plank in the Downing Street briefing room has come to resemble the Disneyland parade. They are not the crème-de-la-crème but milk turned bad. Politically, they are what the cat brought in.

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Coronavirus has exposed many failures and revealed some harsh truths. One of them is that the UK is being run by the dross of the English public school system. This is what happens when you remorselessly pursue a policy of choosing from a ridiculously narrow gene pool. Eventually you reach this wretched nadir. It is Britain’s misfortune that in the hour of our greatest peacetime peril we are seeing the fruit of such persistent cultural consanguinity. Those parents currently preparing to pay their children’s school fees to Eton and other elite English sausage-machines should be demanding discounts.

During the last Gulf War we mocked the daily updates of Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, aka Comical Ali, Iraq’s Minister of Information. Mr Al-Sahhaf would insist that there were no American tanks in Baghdad even as they were being heard in the background. The Americans were taking such a beating, he claimed, that hundreds were committing suicide. Perhaps an enterprising Iraqi might currently be collating video highlights of the daily coronavirus updates and misadventures of Boris Johnson and his comical cabinet.

Look, there’s Boris making his Superman speech in February even as much of the rest of Europe was retreating into lockdown: Britain would be “ready to take off its Clark Kent spectacles and leap into the phone booth and emerge with its cloak flowing as the supercharged champion”. And there he is bragging about shaking hands with everyone during a hospital visit as his chief medical officers wear the sort of look that’s become familiar on the faces of Donald Trump’s advisers whenever he stands in front of a microphone. Here he is now urging us all to “take it on the chin”.

And there’s Jacob Rees-Mogg vying for the title of Champion Super Spreader by forcing 650 MPs to breach lockdown and queue for the lobbies. If this lot had been around in 1940 Britain and her territories would now be part of the greater German empire.

Indeed, if Mr Rees-Mogg’s aristocratic predecessors, led by Lord Halifax, had had their way in 1940 Britain would have been sacrificed to Hitler in exchange for them hanging on to their ancient privileges. They had no stomach for the fight. It’s now largely forgotten that it was only at the insistence of the Labour Party that Winston Churchill became our war-time leader. In that greatest of all wars the UK generals, chosen almost exclusively from the same "elite" gene pool, were rescued from their numerous battlefield calamities by the extraordinary sacrifice of the Russians, and American men and capital.

The collapse that led to the humiliation of Dunkirk; the Norway shambles in 1940; the Dieppe Raid; the near-catastrophic early defeats in the desert; the complacency that led to the Germans’ Ardennes push and the incompetence of the Sicily campaign. How many ordinary soldiers have been lost over centuries because British society demanded that good breeding was more important than excellence in gaining a commission? Eighty years later in this peacetime conflict we are witnessing the same mistakes and complacency made by the same people in the political arena.

If Scotland can’t now restore her natural state of independence after 313 years of being governed by this class then it never will. In the biggest peacetime challenge this nation has ever faced the UK elite have dropped the ball once more: they always do, be it the Iraq War; the 2008 banking crisis and the economic apocalypse of Brexit heading towards us.

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The predictable Unionist response is that the Scottish Government has made errors in its handling of coronavirus. Yet, whenever Nicola Sturgeon attempted to plot even a slightly different course they pilloried her for stepping out of line. We’ll never know if an independent Scotland would have made different decisions but given the congenital incompetence of the Johnson administration it would have been nice to have had the chance.

All newly-independent nations have the opportunity to build something fresh that isn't beholden to ancient privileges. And by God we’re now seeing what can happen when such privilege is left in charge and asked to provide life-saving leadership.

This provides independence with its greatest opportunity. The risks attached now become much less forbidding in the knowledge that this failed UK Government, this caricature of what a government ought to be, will be here for many more years. Its arrogance at the start of coronavirus has cost thousands of lives. Its insistence on a no-deal Brexit will ensure that Britain, already the worst affected in Europe, will also have the longest and most painful recovery. Scotland must move if it’s to have a chance of escaping these fools.

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