To be read by you, the readers, in the longest running national newspaper in the world is a tremendous honour. However, it must be admitted that in a country whose elections always take place on a Thursday, having a column published every Friday proves to be a curse, every couple of years.

There are deadlines to be met. You are reading this on Friday morning, and you know the election result. I am writing this on Thursday, and although The Herald’s editing, design, production and printing teams are of an exceptionally high quality, these words must be typed before voting has ended.

However I have found the curse something of a blessing, in that it has forced me to consider events outside the small islands we inhabit here in the UK. Unless every poll and prediction, including by the Conservative Party itself, is historically wide of the mark, as you read this column, Sir Keir Starmer will be planning his trip to Buckingham Palace, where the King will ask him to form a government.

Nigel Farage may be an influential figureNigel Farage may be an influential figure (Image: free)

I do not yet know who his opponents here in the UK will be. If Jeremy Corbyn has been elected, there will remain a small rump of left-wing troublemakers, angry that Sir Keir has proven that old Labour fails and New Labour works.

If Nigel Farage has been elected and the Conservatives have been reduced to 100-or-so seats, he is likely to become the de facto leader of Britain’s right wing, and as serious an opponent to Sir Keir as whomever becomes leader of the Conservative Party, if it is not Mr Farage himself. If the SNP has kept itself alive under its new, significantly more credible leadership of John Swinney and Kate Forbes, Sir Keir cannot consider Anas Sarwar to be a certainty for victory in 2026.

Sir Keir’s domestic opponents, and allies, are unknowns as I write, but will be clearer by the time you read.

But his foreign opponents and allies are painfully clear already. And his opportunity is historic. This is the most important time in a generation of foreign affairs to be Britain’s Prime Minister.

The world is profoundly dangerous in ways which are difficult to control.

There is no obvious end to Vladimir Putin’s incursions into Europe. His aim is not to restore the Soviet Union, but to restore the pre-1917 Russian Empire, which included not only the former Soviet states but also parts of Poland, including Warsaw. He has Belarus, and Crimea, and large parts of Ukraine, he is on the doorstep of the EU and NATO, and he knows that we in the West don’t want, and can’t afford, a fight.

To Putin’s south, Xì Jinping of China is watching closely. Substitute Russia for China, and Ukraine for Taiwan. Taiwan is one of the most important countries in the world, and could fairly claim to be the single global nation whose demise could bring the world to its knees. It makes almost all of the world’s most advanced semiconductors used in everything from the devices on which I am writing, to the electric cars some of us drive today, and all of us will drive in the next decade.

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President Xi has made clear that he sees nothing stopping what he calls a ‘reunion’ between China and Taiwan, and some believe he wants to achieve this as early as 2027, to mark the 100th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army.

There is no solace as we move west. Iran has an election today, to decide who will succeed President Ebrahim Raisi, who had fallen out with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei before his confounding death in a helicopter crash, and whose prospective replacements are jostling for position as the most hardline replacement.

Iran is as active in the region as it has been for years, not just in its support for Hezbollah and Hamas as they plot the demise of Israel, but in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden as they seek regional dominance over Saudi Arabia.

Iran is also trying to catch up with the Chinese and Russians as the heaviest investors in Africa. A century ago the French, Spanish and Brits ruled that continent; now it’s these three. Africa’s population is projected to double this century, including north of the Sahel, where a combination of population change and climate change is forcing many north to Europe. We know all about this, of course, and the fact that Iran’s neighbour Türkiye’s strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being joined by other strongmen and strongwomen across the continent, who accentuate nationalism and reject internationalism, is no great surprise.

All of that needs a credible counterbalance. Who? Not the President of the United States of America. Donald Trump is himself a nationalist strongman more inclined to cut a deal with these enemies of freedom than to debate and defeat them. Joe Biden’s calamitous performance in last week’s debate was an illustration of the cruelty which those around him are inflicting on this poor man. His only lucid moments come when he faces no pressure. Putin and Xì will walk all over him, and it is ridiculous to expect anything else.

And so we look closer to home, to Europe, for leadership. That has often come from France, whose President Emmanuel Macron is a credible global figure. However, we will know on Sunday whether his electoral gamble has turned into a suicide mission. Germany, under the quiet and uninspiring Chancellor Olaf Scholz, appears to be keeping its head down.

Neither Donald Trump or Joe Biden can provide real leadership for the WestNeither Donald Trump or Joe Biden can provide real leadership for the West (Image: free)

And so, we turn to Sir Keir. He has both opportunity and responsibility. Responsibility in Israel and Palestine, where our historic influence as a major player in those troubled lands has to be accepted.

Sir Keir may find himself as the only world leader who can achieve three critical requirements of keeping a two-state solution on the table, removing Hamas from Gaza’s government on a permanent basis, and removing Benjamin Netanyahu, and all those who think like him, from Israel’s government on a permanent basis.

And both opportunity and responsibility in Europe, where he must simultaneously increase Britain’s economic proximity to the continent for our own sake, but also use and expand Britain’s world-leading soft power as he takes the top seat, at the top table, navigating our way through the world’s triple threat of Russia, China and Iran.

Your country needs you, Sir Keir. The world needs you, too.

Andy Maciver is Founding Director of Message Matters and Zero Matters and a former Scottish Conservative Head of Communications