LIVE by the sword, die by the sword.

Somehow that maxim comes to mind unbidden contemplating the macho posturing going on right now, as support for the Tories ebbs away and rivals circle the stricken Theresa May waiting to pounce. A weekend poll of polls showed the Tories would lose 59 seats in a snap election, leaving Labour in control – if they had a deal with the SNP. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage snaps at the Prime Minister’s other heel – a shock Yougov poll yesterday put his Brexit Party well ahead of Labour and the Tories in England for the forthcoming European elections.

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Well, well. At last the Tungsten Dame (there’s only one Iron Lady) has run out of road. Of course, it seemed astonishing to many Scots that Mrs May’s inflexibility, unwillingness to listen and dogged adherence to shockingly bad ideas didn’t destroy her support south of the Border much earlier. Au contraire. Bouncing back with her trademark haunted grin after each Commons’ defeat and Cabinet gubbing, her popularity down south actually seemed to grow. Even the Prime Minister’s inability to dance somehow confirmed her status as the archetypal British leader – a woman who hadn’t wasted a nano-second on namby-pamby things like arts, culture, self-expression or physical co-ordination.

Here was a human calculating machine. A woman who would not bat an eyelid after casting tens of thousands of children, working parents and disabled folk into lifelong, hopeless, grinding poverty. A woman who wouldn’t flinch from protecting the Establishment and the British Way. A slightly flawed successor to the Blessed Margaret.

And then, she held talks with Jeremy Corbyn. Game over. Her political demise was guaranteed when she started to listen, work across party boundaries, consider compromise and quit the meaningless repetition of “Brexit means Brexit”. Why? Live by the sword, die by the sword. May has been hoist by her own petard.

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In the harsh, “no surrender” world created by successive British governments, compromise means weakness and weak leaders must go.

It’s ironic – politicians like the Prime Minister and most of her wooden, control-obsessed Conservative Party have trained the electorate to despise politicians who have empathy, vulnerability or even a sense of humour. Now, like guard-dogs taught to smell weakness, voters are turning on their fallen “strong and stable” owner instead.

But that doesn’t mean the new contenders for Theresa May’s tarnished crown will challenge the model or change the formula. They aren’t visionary, eloquent, driven or brave enough. And let’s be clear: any new leader facing the crazed, howling British bulldog, penned up in maddening, powerless squalor for decades, would need courage in spades.

So, rivals are talking meaningless guff, like Jeremy Hunt: “We’re all democrats and we think there are great opportunities for this country whichever choice it makes”; or sounding tough like Sajid Javid: “I could have turned to a life of crime myself”; or channelling Moses, as Boris Johnson has tried to do with his prediction that a “pent-up tide of Tory ideas” will flood the country after Brexit. Jings. With leadership contenders like these ...

But despite the presence of woeful plonkers like Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, it’s important not to get side-tracked by personalities.

The National: Boris Johnson

It isn’t individual MPs that are failing Britain. It’s the system. A system that allows a handful of unelected aristocrats to select a fellow titled toff to sit in the world’s second largest unelected chamber. A system where the continued use of archaic first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting means a quarter of Westminster seats haven’t changed hands since the Second World War. A system whose benefit sanctions are the second harshest in the world. A system where 37% of the vote guarantees almost 100% of the parliamentary power. A system where 300 council seats in England have already been “won” without a single vote cast, because so many candidates are unopposed. Most of these “democracy deserts” are in Tory zones (the Conservatives should “win” 267 of the 300 unopposed seats) and Brexit-backing hotspots.

The data released this morning by the Electoral Reform Society suggests a strong correlation between wasted FPTP votes and voter alienation. But no party is pushing to replace this harmful and archaic voting system in English local elections. Because really, who cares?

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Despite (or maybe because of) Brexit, Britain’s broken governance system is getting no scrutiny, blame or government-led plans for total reconstruction. Instead, the focus – as usual – is on time (never enough to tackle hierarchy, privilege and entitlement) ... and personality.

Why not? It’s natural to blame what you can see. Systems, like particulates in air pollution, are hard to engage, target or tackle. They remain invisible but predictably destructive. People can be pointed at, defined, named, watched and – theoretically – got rid of.

So, we focus on people.

I ken, I ken. They start it. They insult our guys. Our politicians respond. We respect SNP MPs for the strength of their justified rage. Fury provokes outrage, but all the while, the public inches away from the whole broken Westminster thing. Scots have tried to ensure Britain’s elitist, “devil take the hindmost” outlook does not reside in our devolved structures – but like any good virus, it lives in our bloodstreams; in our dreams; in the range of hurts, insults and degradation we thole or let other citizens endure. Above all, hard-boiled Britishness exists in our ideas of what leadership looks like. Tough, uncompromising, lofty, hard to challenge, non-collegiate and unwilling to share control – especially with the people.

The Scottish Government and Holyrood structures are in a much better place than Westminster. But we should learn from what’s happening there. Hogging control is unlovely but it’s also a hard habit to kick. The British ideal of “strong” single-party government with its illusion of stability and clarity has collapsed, but the alternative model of coalition government, cross-party working and consensual processes takes time and trust. British democracy doesn’t have sufficient reserves of either. So, Westminster is stuck between two value systems – one wrecked and the other nascent; one tried, trusted and failed, the other untried (at Westminster anyway) untrusted (there) yet fairly successful across Europe. Indeed, that’s the problem. Compromise and collaboration appear to be European in nature – and Brexiting England can’t be having that now.

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Happily, the Scots have a few other democratic hares running – like the conditional version of monarchy and leadership spelled out in the Declaration of Arbroath, which recognises leaders unless they go off the boil and trade Scotland’s hard-won sovereignty with English kings.

That’s good, but it’s time to go further. Is it OK to live in a quasi-feudal fiefdom where two men own more land than every community buyout combined, yet pay no tax on it? Is it OK to have the largest “local” councils in the developed world with some council HQs several days travel away for “local” voters? Is it OK to have the smallest councillor cohort (pro rata)? Is our Holyrood voting system the most proportional one we can devise? And, of course, is it OK to be the smaller member of a union where powers are arbitrarily stripped away by the larger one?

If the answer to any or all these questions is no, then we must act to improve the standard of our democracy – not just on the all-important issue of independence.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said in the immediate aftermath of the Breivik attack in 2011: “This was an attack on democracy, so we will respond with more democracy.”

Mercifully, no lone gunman is threatening Scots. But the assault on our democracy is severe. How will we respond?