Recess time again in Westminster and Holyrood. After the week the Conservative, Labour and the SNP leaders have had, you might think they are due a rest from parliamentary duties.

Rishi Sunak’s bad week included a row over his bet with Piers Morgan on Rwanda, and a woefully ill-judged remark about Keir Starmer’s views on trans people.

The Labour leader was left weakened by the drastic scaling down of his party’s £28 billion green rescue plan, while in Scotland Humza Yousaf continued a long run of bad weeks with the loss of his health secretary, Michael Matheson, over an £11,000 iPad bill.

With Matheson taking the unusual step of jumping before the report into his conduct has been published, the scandal has a while to run yet. Sunak faces a double whammy of by-elections in Wellingborough and Kingswood on Thursday. On the same day, figures are expected to show the UK has tipped into a technical recession. Starmer, already in retreat over the few spending commitments Labour has left, will come under pressure to ditch more.

Even if you had not read a paper or seen a TV bulletin last week, it would have been obvious that there had been trouble at the Tory and Labour mills. How? The wheeling out of Michael Gove and Pat McFadden on the Sunday politics shows.

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Margaret Thatcher was famously of the view that every Prime Minister needed a Willie [Whitelaw] to go out and fight for them. Now the must-have for party leaders is a reassuring Scot, such as McFadden, or one skilled in the dark arts of diversion, like Gove.

No one is a more convincing or inventive crier of “squirrel” than Gove. This time he took the attention away from Sunak by telling a Sunday paper that faith in democracy was at risk if young people could not get on the housing ladder.

As for McFadden, Labour’s national campaign co-ordinator, his speciality is calmly moving people on from the latest accident with a reassuring “nothing to see here folks”. I half expect him to come on with a bucket of sand, like the Still Game janitor. Wielder of the fire bucket, wartime consigliere, bodyguard - whatever you call them, Gove and McFadden are what every leader needs sometimes. Granted, Gove has not always been the dependable type. The business with Boris would have finished the career of anyone else, yet the fact that Gove came back from it, and lived to see his enemy off again, is testament to his skills as an operator.

McFadden, meanwhile, is a company man through and through, the firm in question being Labour. As an adviser to Donald Dewar, John Smith, Tony Blair and others, he has a chameleon-like ability to blend into most backgrounds and be content there.

Scotland’s First Minister could do with a Gove or McFadden of his own. The ideal candidate for the job would be someone of a certain age at a particular stage of their career. A person who has no realistic chance of becoming leader or any desire to do so. Vastly experienced, they should be able to see round corners for trouble coming. Being selfless, or as selfless as any politician can be, is a given.

Looking at Mr Yousaf’s cabinet line-up it is a struggle to see anyone who fits the bill. To a man and woman they are party politicians through and through, dependent on one person for their advancement. Where are the free thinkers, the people from different walks of life, that the Scottish parliament was meant to attract?

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Perhaps we only imagined all the talk of a parliament that was more representative of Scottish society, where each intake would be better and brighter than what had gone before. A parliament of “real” people. For “real” read someone who has had a job outside politics.

But then like attracts like, and the First Minister is typical of the modern MSP. After a degree in politics, and a spell in a call centre, he went straight into parliament as a researcher.

Other members of his newly reshuffled cabinet have similar career tales to tell. Neil Gray, Matheson’s replacement as health secretary, read politics and journalism at university. After working for the BBC he became a constituency office manager, an MP, then an MSP. Mairi McAllan, the wellbeing economy net zero and energy secretary, is credited on the Scottish Government website with working as a corporate lawyer and special adviser to Nicola Sturgeon.

By now a familiar pattern should be emerging. Besides similar backgrounds, all Cabinet members supported Humza Yousaf as leader. Jim Fairlie, the minister for agriculture and connectivity, and a farmer, backed Kate Forbes.

Who among Mr Yousaf’s choices has the ability or desire to be a Gove or a McFadden when required?

Angus Robertson would have been a shoo-in at one time but these days he is what Donald Trump would call a low energy kind of guy.

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Mairi McAllan would dearly like the job, and indeed has been auditioning for it, but she has a long way to go before she can even begin to match the assurance of a Gove or a McFadden.

The obvious candidate is the one who was already in post, albeit in a different job. Neil Gray is a polished communicator and an able political operator. He is also health secretary at a time when the NHS is in crisis. As his boss knows, it is a job that attracts bad headlines. Gray will have enough on his plate defending his own performance. The idea that he can do that and at the same time be a political bodyguard for Yousaf is a non-starter. The First Minister, as he so often shows, is high-maintenance.

Yousaf would likely be the first to say that he doesn’t need anyone to be his defender-in-chief as he can do a fine job of it himself. Yet he has shown no sign of doing so. He likes the cameras and he is given to shooting from the lip. The two do not always sit happily together.

The person who should have been first pick for his cabinet is the last person he was going to call. It was not without risk but offering Kate Forbes a job may turn out to have been his best, and last, chance to remain First Minister.