It is common at this season to nominate a Personality of the Year. Usually, in order to be defined as a “personality”, a candidate needs to have generated many headlines, impacted upon public consciousness by being on the telly a lot and generally contributed to the jollity of the nation.

Having surveyed an unpromising field, two nominees appear to meet these criteria. Step forward, our departed First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and the irrepressible Baroness Mone of Mayfair. Each rose from humble origins to be among the highest in the land. Each faces 2024 with degrees of trepidation. It is a well-matched contest.

At the start of the year, it would have been difficult to imagine our first candidate in the position of random celebrity, available for bookings. At Holyrood, she was ruler of all she surveyed while within her own party circles, a well-directed glare could silence timorous dissent. Particularly on fiscal matters.

A leaked video from 2021 showed her warning the SNP’s ruling body to be "very careful" about suggesting "any problems" with the accounts. "There are no reasons for people to be concerned about the party's finances” was her catchphrase.

Then on March 28th, the edifice started to tumble. Nicola resigned as First Minister. A week later, her husband was arrested and the famous blue tent appeared on the Sturgeon-Murrell lawn. Two months later, the former First Minister was herself arrested and released without charge. By this time, the emergence of a camper van kept the public in thrall.

Since then, the show has run and run while Operation Branchform takes its course behind the scenes. Every time the script lags and needs a new line, one obligingly appears. Most recently, the introduction of a “£95k Jaguar purchase” into the plot reclaimed the front pages. Who knows what 2024 will bring?

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But Ms Sturgeon’s impact on the year that’s awa’ cannot be measured only in terms of public drama. What she left behind may come to count more. For starters, she bequeathed unto us Humza Yousaf and that has not proved a great success. Any aura of untouchability she generated has dissipated and there’s a lot of legacy mess to be cleaned up.

Top of that pile was the Gender Recognition Reform Bill which has now been kicked into distant touch, leaving behind some defining images which proved extremely bad adverts for the proposition that a man could become a woman merely by saying so. The net effect has been to damage, rather than advance, a humane cause. Let that lesson be learned.

Baroness Mone’s recent hold upon public curiosity was more predictable from the day of her ennoblement by David Cameron in 2015. A series of entrepreneurial mishaps followed, as one would have expected. There is now nothing at all funny about the allegations that Mayfair’s adopted Baroness faces over very expensive contracts for protective equipment during the Covid pandemic. Investigations are continuing, as they say.

However, Baroness Mone’s historic significance may prove to be greater than the sum of her alleged offences. For years to come, her name will surely be coupled with the madness of tolerating a House of Parliament which owes nothing to democratic process and everything to either the powers of patronage or, even in its revised form, heredity, with open-ended numerical membership.

It is difficult to imagine much public resistance to a clear-cut commitment to reform the House of Lords along lines which bear some relationship to democracy. I am very much in favour of retaining a revising chamber but, for heaven’s sake, let’s finally get rid of the existing farce. If the case of Baroness Mone of Mayfair can contribute to that outcome, she will have laboured not in vain.

Both of our candidates have thus contributed to a very important commodity – the mood for change. Whether in Scotland or the United Kingdom as a whole, there is a widespread rejection of governments that have, apart from their other failings, simply been around for far too long, with all the attendant arrogance and sense of entitlement this brings. It happens to them all.

In 2024, most likely, voters throughout the UK will have the opportunity to pass a verdict which reflects these sentiments. Those who aspire to replace the Tories should by now be acutely aware of the pitfalls inherent in taking anything for granted. Being sick of one lot does not guarantee walking into the arms of another.

The kind of matters which have kept our two nominees, Ms Sturgeon and Baroness Mone, in the forefront of public interest over recent months feed a cynicism about politics in general. In Scotland, we might have felt some slight immunity from these perceptions but that is not now the case. “You’re all the same” is definitely not a fair generalisation but it is a charge political aspirants will have to address.

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There is a particular responsibility on Labour in the months ahead to offer not just a cleaner, better alternative to the Tories and the prospect of a fresh start. There also has to be a message of real hope that a change of government will make life better for many who are at present struggling with too many challenges.

I am bound to think back to 1997 when a roughly similar set of circumstances existed. The vast majority were sick and tired of a decrepit Tory government. An incoming Labour one would face acute financial challenges. Every spending commitment had to be closely monitored for fiscal responsibility. Yet that did not stop Labour making a small number of very significant and deliverable pledges to enthuse and reassure voters. We need the same again.

Meanwhile, voting is tied between Mesdames Sturgeon and Mone, so I will declare a dead heat. In 2023, both came to epitomise the fact that a brass neck can take one a long way but eventually the long arm of reality catches up. Let that be a reminder to all prospective candidates for political stardom in 2024!