The hand of history made one of its rare appearances at the weekend, this time coming to rest on the shoulder of Vaughan Gething. The new leader of Welsh Labour, and therefore the country’s new First Minister, is the first black leader of any European country.

It is not the only “first” on the cards. When he is sworn in this week no head of government in the UK will be a white male. Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Michelle O’Neill and now Vaughan Gething, have combined to make that happen.

Le Monde noted the changing face of politics in the UK, as did The Sydney Morning Herald and other newspapers. Here in the UK, the media seemed in two minds whether to make a big deal of it. Was it a turning point in history, or another marker on a road where the direction of travel is already established?

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Gething’s election was that it should happen at the end of a week when accusations of racism and misogyny turned UK politics as toxic as it has been for a long time.

The more you think about it the more incredible it seems. In the UK in 2024 the party in government takes money from a businessman who reportedly said the Labour MP Diane Abbott made him want “to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”. This in a country where two MPs have been murdered.

Across the political spectrum and around the country there was instant, overwhelming revulsion at the alleged remarks. Even cynics who thought they had heard it all by now were taken aback. A line had been crossed, a response had to be made and fast.

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So why did it take Rishi Sunak and the Downing Street machine so long to call out Frank Hester’s alleged comments as racist? What possible reason, other than the £10 million he had given the party, could there be for not issuing an immediate condemnation?

Having taken an age to say the right thing, the Conservatives are still refusing to do the right thing and hand Hester his money back. Yesterday’s minister for the Sunday politics shows, transport secretary Mark Harper, said “the donation stands” because the remarks pre-dated Hester’s £10 million donation and the entrepreneur had apologised.

As for a further £5 million reported to have been handed over recently, Mr Harper knew nothing about that money. Despite this extra donation being in the news for days, and therefore likely to come up in interviews, Mr Harper had not made any inquiries about it. Not his job, guv.

Another row, another three wise monkeys performance from a government minister. While one would like to think the only direction politics can take from here is up, it looks increasingly doubtful that will be the case. If anything, the longer the wait for a general election the more toxic politics could become.

The last days of any government can be a testing time, both for the serving and the governed, but some administrations fall apart more disastrously than others. The fall of the Tory empire from 1992-97 comes to mind. The collapse started with Black Wednesday, only months after John Major’s surprise victory, and pretty much carried on without pause. At times, the “bastards” in his own party were more of a headache to Major than anything Blair could conjure.

That was bad for Major and his party, and frustrating for the country. But as fed up as people were with the Tories, the toxicity was largely contained. That did not seem the case last week. There was an ugliness in the air and it was seeping from Westminster.

In other countries people have expressed their unhappiness with the status quo through the ballot box. In Europe, for the most part, this has resulted in the election of right-wing populist governments. Not the outcome many of us would wish to see, but democracy’s safety valve was opened, the system worked.

Here, the battle among Tories gets worse by the day and there is no end in sight. Leave aside those MPs who are not standing again, and what remains is a fight between the right and the further right, with Reform UK waiting to scoop up what is left.

In the latest scenario cooked up by feverish minds, Penny Mordaunt, Commons leader and carrier of swords, is being touted as the next Tory leader. It would be laughable if the party did not have such a strong track record in pushing ludicrous ideas through.

What has sent the headless chickens running this time is a Spring Budget that fell flat, and new polling suggesting the coming wipeout of Tory MPs is going to be far worse than anyone has imagined. Even those MPs who thought their majorities were big enough to survive are worried.

This week Sunak will try again to steady the ship, but the questions about the Hester donations, and the Prime Minister’s leadership in general, are not going away. How many times have helicopter flights been laid on for Mr Sunak? Why did it take so long to condemn the remarks as racist? If that is as fast as Downing Street can move how will it cope in a more pressing crisis?

There will be other polls and more jitters to come. It is now doubtful whether Sunak can go on till November, as he planned, or whether he will be forced to go to the country sooner.

Time was when the Tories fighting among themselves could be treated as a spectator sport. The rest of us could take it or leave it. What happened within the party stayed within the party. That was always a fiction to some extent, but never more so than now. Just as Liz Truss being premier had real-world financial consequences, so Sunak’s dithering over the Hester remarks will cost him dear in many people’s estimation. Yet another bad week for the Tories is a bad week for us all.