EUROPE was on fire the other week.

But our politicians have forgotten that, and moved on. Now they can pontificate about mass poverty, global hunger or war for a while, before doing precisely nothing once again.

When it comes to politics, there’s a flaw in our analysis: we consume news in a granular fashion, obsessing on the detail of one story for a time, without seeing how it fits within the full spectrum of events. Often, we cannot, as the old saying goes, see the wood for the trees. Step back though. You can see the woods then. And it’s a scary place. For the one unifying theory of everything is this: politics has failed.

No matter where you go in Britain, there’s political failure. The failure is of varying degrees – the chaotic maelstrom of Tory rule far outstrips the zombified government of the SNP when it comes to sheer inadequacy – but in no place will talent, or even mediocre competence, be found.

Nor does opposition sharpen any appetite for adeqSir Keir Starmer betrays everything the party stands for, morphing Labour into some mere shadow-play of Conservatism.

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The collective response to the cost of living crisis is a mark of how lost our political class is now. They’ve no ideas, no solutions. Millions of ordinary people are about to go under this autumn and winter. But what do our politicians do? In London, Tories race to the bottom. Rishi Sunak, a multi-millionaire incapable of understanding the lives of ordinary people, and Liz Truss, an empty vessel filled only with ambition, offer a society even more Darwinian than the one they’ve already created. In Edinburgh, the SNP pleads its hands are tied; it can do nothing without more money from London. In truth, there’s plenty the SNP can do. The party simply has no ideas, save independence. And while independence can, indeed, be presented as an overarching solution to Scotland’s problems, the party has singularly failed to make that case, and singularly failed to govern well.

Nicola Sturgeon says key levers to help ease economic pain remain under control of the UK Government. On this she’s absolutely correct. However, the First Minister also has a wide range of tax powers at her disposal. The SNP trade union group put up a motion at the party’s conference calling for “more creative and bold use” of these powers. The motion was excluded from the draft agenda. What more proof is needed of SNP lack of ambition and political failure?

The SNP knows it has failed on the economy and it now faces the wrath of public sector unions. With wearying inevitability, the SNP deflects the blame it deserves – along with the Tory Party, clearly, it must be stressed – by hiding behind the constitution.

What even is the SNP’s economic policy? If a referendum did one day materialise and Scotland voted yes, what are the plans for currency and cross-border trade? Currently, the SNP simply cooks up grand ideas then abandons them. As giant corporations gouge consumers, it’s a good time to ask what happened to the policy of a National Energy Company. Meanwhile, the seabed is sold off for green energy which could make the people of Scotland wealthy.

Where’s the action on climate – now? Politicians mouth words like "net zero" then do nothing. The western strategy towards Russia has been disastrous. Sanctions which should have been targeted to bring down Putin’s murderous regime have instead propped him up. Sixth formers with a rough understanding of history, politics and economics could have foreseen this.

European nations can barely govern themselves. Political failure in France is so thorough that Emmanuel Macron, a man bereft of ideas and morality, dresses in the clothes of the far right. Italy’s government simply collapses. President Biden, who should be seen as a saviour, is so incompetent he cannot stymie the America First iteration of republicanism.

We’re burying democracy through political inadequacy. In Chinese media, smirking commentators gloat that Beijing’s totalitarianism is now proved to be the only and best way for humans to rule themselves. This way ruin lies.

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The reason for our mass failure – our full systems failure – is overstretch. The way our hands-off laissez-faire politicians have built the western world is simply too dumb, too big, too cocky. Couple that with the collapse of the post-war consensus in the West, and the social fragmentation caused by identity politics, and there really is nothing holding the whole damn thing together any more. That’s why we all feel this sense of dancing on the edge of the precipice, because that’s precisely where we are right now.

History won’t find this moment remarkable, though. We’ve been here before. Some months back, I likened the slow decay that we’re experiencing now to the Bronze Age collapse when civilisations in the Mediterranean went down like skittles in the 12th century BC.

Perhaps, that analogy was off. Maybe what we’re experiencing is more like Europe in the 1600s. In 1555, the Peace of Augsburg was implemented in post-Reformation Europe, keeping conflict at bay on a continent riven by religious culture wars and proto identity politics. Peace held for a while but come 1618 Europe exploded into the Thirty Years War, one of the most destructive events in the continent’s history. Revolution came to Britain, a king lost his head. The 1600s were marked by chaos caused by political failure. Is this where we are now? Eventually, though, modernity and enlightenment triumphed … for a while.

History may remember this moment as a fascinating period to study, like the 1600s, but a time that wasn’t much fun to live through. There’s one optimistic note: unlike our ancestors, we’ve the freedom to demand change from the ground up in a way they didn’t. In the era of political failure, why wait for so-called "leaders" to act, when pain finally comes knocking on their door, long after it’s paid a visit to the rest of us? When politicians are of no more use, it’s the people who must demand the change that’s needed.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald