WHEN the next UK “power list” is assembled there ought to be a place for the person who draws up the Daily Star front page each night.

With the simple act of popping a red nose or clown shoes on a politician, the Star can ruin a career in a mouse click. True, the daily slaughterings of Boris Johnson and his Ministers were not solely to blame for their ousting, their own actions did that, but being “clowned” every day cannot have helped.

The latest politician to wear the red nose of shame is Kwasi Kwarteng. Can it only be last Sunday that a perky Chancellor told the host of Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg that he was just getting started on his list of bright, tax-cutting ideas? “We’ve only been here for 19 days,” he said. Yes, and just look at the mess that has been made.

In what was the economic equivalent of sticking a red nose on the Truss Government, the IMF made its consternation clear. “We are closely monitoring recent economic developments in the UK and are engaged with the authorities,” it said yesterday in snippy tones that called to mind those 1970s dust-ups with Jim Callaghan and Denis Healey. How mortifying. Once the UK was Cool Britannia, now it is Fool Britannia, trashing its own economy and threatening to drag the rest of the world down with it.

Rolling catastrophe that is British politics

Not for the first time, your average observer of the rolling catastrophe that is British politics is left wondering how we got here. Where are the adults in the room? Who took leave of their senses and put Kwasi Kwarteng, Liz Truss, and Jacob Rees-Mogg in charge?

The immediate answer is the 81,326 members of the Conservative Party who elected Ms Truss as their leader and de facto Prime Minister. While the election was exceptional the kind of person they chose was not. In education, wealth and general life experience, Ms Truss and her political peers are birds of a similar feather. Regardless of party, they are recognisably political “types”, members of a governing elite we have grown used to seeing in power, here and elsewhere.

According to a new Channel 4 show, Make Me Prime Minister, people are heartily fed up with the same old politicians the system keeps producing.

Among those reckoning they can do better are 12 contestants, one a Scot, competing to win £25,000 and the chance to be named “Channel 4’s alternative Prime Minister”. It’s all good clean silliness, The Apprentice with Alastair Campbell and Sayeeda Warsi replacing Alan Sugar, but it makes some serious points. Who should we be electing, and why are we failing to do so?

I had to laugh the other night when a reporter, doing a vox pop on Keir Starmer’s conference speech, asked what was required in a Prime Minister. “We want people who are stable,” said one chap. Seems a pretty low bar, being sane, but you knew what he meant. In short, not a Boris Johnson or the clowns who have come after him.

Keir “Interesting” Starmer has had to field a lot of questions this week on whether he has what it takes to be Prime Minister.

People wanted a “serious person steering the country calmly and confidently,” he told the BBC’s Today programme yesterday. “If I came on and said I’d done a bungee jump, you wouldn’t say, ‘Well, great, now we have the PM we need.”

Couple of points. One, are bungee jumps still a thing? Two, how does not doing them mark a person out as a potential leader? Like simply being sane, it seems another low bar. We can surely do better than this.

Closer to home

In drawing up a list of attributes a successful leader must have, it is useful to have an example in mind. Keeping things close to home, let’s take Nicola Sturgeon.

You might query the use of the word “successful” when it comes to her track record on ferries, education, hospital waiting time targets and much else.

Yet she is electorally popular, a proven winner, so she must be doing something right in the eyes of the majority. Indeed, how often have we seen her appear on the UK stage only for social media to light up with people who wish she was their leader? What does she have that makes her stand out?

It could be her straightforward, no fuss manner, that she comes across as well-informed. Do people think yes, she is just like them, but at the same time she has that certain something it takes to lead?

Ms Sturgeon ticks several boxes, but how does she score on another must-have: experience of “real life” outside politics. She was a solicitor before being elected, but not for very long. The trend in recent years has been for a wannabe politician to go straight from university into working for a party.

Having a certain level of intelligence ought to be among the attributes of a leader, but that is another rule which does not always hold good. Kwasi Kwarteng has a double first in classics and history and a PhD in economic history.

While he tries to convince the City he has a clue what he is doing, the Prime Minister, an Oxford graduate, seems to have suffered another crippling bout of shyness and is staying out of the way.

So an ideal leader needs intelligence, but not necessarily formal qualifications; life experience; and a sense of public service.

To which we might add integrity, empathy, self-confidence, energy, a willingness to work hard, and let’s throw in a little humility while we are at it. This should not be too tall an order. People you know, perhaps even your good self, could fit the bill.

There could be any number of reasons why a person would not want a political career. Long hours, stress, minimal chance of progression, the competitive atmosphere. If you can survive all that, would you want to be a Prime Minister or a First Minister? Look at the faces of those who have done the job and wonder if it is worth the effort.

The pool from which most politicians come is wider and more diverse than it has ever been, yet the chances of, say, a child from a disadvantaged background becoming Prime Minister is as remote as it has ever been (perhaps more so).

When so few can do the job well it is crazy to limit their chances of getting through. Maybe the idea of a reality show as a way to discover political talent is not too far-fetched after all. Look around: we could hardly do worse.