THE US political drama Scandal was purportedly based on the experiences of the Washington fixer, Judy Smith, played by Kerry Washington. During a seven-year run starting in 2012 it met with universal critical acclaim across America.

By the third series though, you begin to realise that the connection with the real life of Ms Smith, a senior aide in the George W Bush administration, must only have been in its loosest sense. Compared with the White House as imagined in Scandal, the Caligula’s court was a model of probity and rectitude.

The American President, who turns out to be a cold-blooded murderer, came to power in a rigged election. Three vice-presidents are also murderers and the President’s wife sanctions political assassinations. The CIA operates a secret death squad which routinely tortures and kills those whom they deem to be national security threats. The lobbying firm at the centre of the drama is staffed by full-blown, certifiable psychopaths. There is concupiscence and evisceration on an industrial scale. Think West Wing meets From Dusk Till Dawn.

This being an American production there’s an obligation to deliver a lesson on the importance of “Truth, Justice and the American Way”. It’s clear though that for these politicians and lobbyists “Truth, Justice and the American Way” is only what they – and they alone - say it is. Underpinning all of it is an implacable contempt for the American people, all of whom are regarded as acceptable collateral damage if they stray into the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Unless official papers protected by the 100 Years Rule show otherwise, I’m fairly certain that the UK’s current crop of political leaders haven’t been personally responsible for rubbing out opponents (though you can never be certain about our security services). Their preferred means of political assassination is to summon Twitter hit squads to do the wet work.

In other respects though, the contempt they reserve for the voting public is beyond any caricature in a television drama and happening in real time. Nowhere has it been more evident than in the proceedings of the Covid Inquiry north and south of the Border. The UK is now firmly in the grip of a political class that sets its own rules and checks. Normal people with normal thresholds of shame and embarrassment might once have viewed an admission by these people that they’d engaged in the wholesale deletion of Covid WhatsApp messages as matters demanding immediate resignation. What they couldn’t have imagined is the cheerful insouciance with which this has been done.

The absence of any remorse is stunning and insults the memory of all those who died of Covid-19. That they’ve attempted to suggest that this was somehow “within the rules” is callous.

The public accepts that errors of judgment were bound to happen in the heat of a sudden and unprecedented public health crisis. They would have been happy to cut politicians operating in such circumstances some slack. What they couldn’t ever have imagined is the “nothing to see here” attitude.

Underpinning the politicians’ pitilessness is their secure knowledge that no consequences will arise from their malfeasances. None of them will serve prison time or be charged with criminality. Those who’ve been exposed as the main instigators and perpetrators are nearing the end of their political careers. Book deals and non-executive positions in public sector management boards still await them.

For those with the busiest contact books a senior position in a political lobbying firm awaits. Some supine journalists in a media landscape shorn of much of its old investigative resource will give them a soft landing in the hope that this will help them when they seek employment at the same companies and think tanks. Ian Blackford wants the party to relax its ban on taking a seat in the Lords. This would open up another lucrative bolt-hole.

The Herald: Boris Johnson's Government was engulfed in the Partygate scandalBoris Johnson's Government was engulfed in the Partygate scandal (Image: PA)

Already, the memory of the Downing Street Covid parties are beginning to fade, while there will be no meaningful investigation into the means by which dozens of Tory families and friends became millionaires on the PPE express.

Yet you expect Tories to behave in this manner. Intrinsic to their system of values is maintaining financial hegemony and influence by any means necessary. They make appeals to patriotism and loyalty to the Crown to avert scrutiny from the people.

The SNP’s behaviour has been worse. They also maintain control of their personal, well-endowed fiefdoms by weaponising patriotism even as they mock the pantomime cartoon imperialism of Jacob Rees-Mogg and his cohort.

Like the Westminster Tories they wield patronage like medieval barons, knowingly promoting mediocre acolytes into positions for which they’re absurdly ill-qualified. And all the while proclaiming that they are bound by a higher set of ethics.

In doing so, they destroyed independence for the foreseeable future and even did that which would previously have been thought unthinkable: bringing devolution into disrepute to the extent that opinion polls are now recording significant dissatisfaction with it. In some ways, this is understandable. After a quarter of a century of devolved government Holyrood has produced a class of politicians who represent the worst of Scotland: supine, slow and lacking in originality or the ability to think or themselves. Mediocrity gets rewarded.

The process by which we got there is most starkly observed in the dismantling of women’s rights in real time and endangering vulnerable female prisoners. This is fuelled by the systematic gaslighting and abuse of women who dare to oppose it.

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Any passing crisis or cause - no matter how remote or shallow - has been commandeered to convey virtue and divert attention from the wholesale failure of public policy in health and education. What we once assumed was a modern, liberal and democratic democracy has been captured.

It’s a bloodless coup mounted by a small cadre of political gangsters. How else to describe the systematic and strategic process of concealing your work on our behalf during a national health emergency? And then using emergency powers to make legislation protecting yourself from future inquiries?

Alongside this, the political lobbying sector has become swollen with parasites feeding on the public teat. These people perform a function that is literally and metaphorically worthless. They neither create jobs nor stimulate growth or improve public discourse. They lurk in the shadows seeking opportunities for rich clients to jump the access queue ahead of ordinary voters.

They in turn are helped by a sprawling suite of party and government advisers who know that facilitating such fast-track access will result in a decent job with Charlotte & Merlot when the gravy train gets a new driver.

It was supposed to be better than this.