TO call the conduct of political leadership in the UK and the US a pantomime is to do a great disservice to the cultural pinnacle of our festive season’s theatre calendar.

If Downing Street and the White House were occupied by our most loved stars like Andy Gray and Elaine C Smith instead of their current incumbents, then the world would be a far safer and more comforting place. Oh yes it would.

It is tempting in such grave times to allow mirth to get in the way of reality. Watching Westminster on any day or the antics of Tory leadership hopefuls sometimes requires us to laugh, otherwise we may cry.

Of course, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove top the bookies odds by some distance to be the next prime minister, and Boris by a few lengths from his erstwhile partner in political crime. But who knows which two the disparate and warring group of Tory MPs will choose to put in front of the party’s members?

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Neither selectorate represents mainstream opinion in the UK, and certainly not in Scotland. But they will nonetheless determine who will govern the UK and therefore Scotland.

It is like Britain’s Not Got Talent only with less of a public say or scrutiny of the contestants.

Likewise, the US president is a comedic gift that just can’t stop giving. Even before he landed for his state visit to the UK, he was tweeting at Mayor of London Sadiq Khan in the manner of particularly badly behaved eight-year-old boys in any playground.

The Prime Minister’s job is always important, but the inter-generational gravity of the leadership challenge it faces immediately is greater than at any point in peacetime history.

Brexit is an act of colossal self-harm and it is only the extent of the damage determined by the manner of exit and subsequent settlement that remains uncertain. The measurement of that harm will be determined by both headline choices and then in a hundred thousand details.

Those details can only be guessed at now but will be negotiated and determined by the new prime minister’s government and scrutinised by a Westminster Parliament that is close to losing all public respect. The scorn is easy, the tears will fall for longer.

We got a hint this week in the chaos of the presidential visit when he told a news conference he wanted a big new trade deal once the UK got out from under the “shackles” of EU regulations preventing food pumped full of hormones or chlorine coming into Europe, for example.

He also suggested that the NHS was “on the negotiating table” leading to fears that a weak and craven government would be rolled over by the US in any negotiation.

READ MORE: Sturgeon tells Trump: Get your hands off Scotland's NHS

It is not a misplaced fear to doubt the capabilities of the UK political class to prosecute the best interests of the country in Brexit, trade and the economy, jobs and the NHS.

All of these issues are top of the concerns of most people in the country as they worry about the future and the present. The choice facing us all is whom do we trust with our country’s place in the world, our economy and our jobs, our very NHS?

If your answer is “whichever Tory PM is selected next month” then there is very little I can say or do to help you.

If your mind is turning to believe the answer could be “our own government, elected by our people every time, scrutinised by our own Parliament and striving to emulate the best small countries and societies in the world” then I believe Scotland may be able to turn this crisis into a genuine opportunity for improvement.

No-one should ever suggest there are free and easy solutions to all the major issues we face. Taking responsibility for our own choices will be effort, hard work and a challenge, but very much worth it. The alternative, for many, is increasingly unthinkable.

Take responsibility for your decision to make cuts

THE board of the BBC is due to make a difficult decision in the next few weeks on whether to fund free licence fees for the over 75s. This policy was brought in by the Labour government in 2001 and funded by the Department for Work and Pensions. A universal benefit determined by public policy.

However, in 2015 the Conservative government decided to hand the responsibility for the policy to the BBC itself and remove the funding for it by 2020. That means the BBC needs to find around £750 million of cuts or else remove the free licences in part or in whole. If Scotland’s share of those cuts is anywhere close to 10% then that is more than twice the entire cost of the new BBC Scotland channel.

This is a shabby situation to foist on the BBC. No matter what one’s views on Auntie Beeb’s performance, it should not be made a tool of social policy – or rather the rolling back of social policy. It has a clear public mission “to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain”.

That is their job and its board does not exist to arbitrate between Tory and Labour social policy. If the Government seeks to make them they should resign to defend the mission of the organisation they govern.

On page 66 of their 2017 election manifesto the Conservative party said: “We will maintain all other pensioner benefits, including free bus passes, eye tests, prescriptions and TV licences for the duration of this parliament.”

Now leaving aside that this shoddy government could fall at any moment, that was a commitment intended through to 2022 and completely at odds with their 2015 decision to try to pass the financial buck to the BBC.

If the Tories believe in the benefit to pensioners, they need to find the money to fund it. If they don’t then they need to take responsibility for that decision honestly and transparently.

Otherwise they will have reneged on a manifesto commitment – but then, there is very little they have not yet reneged on as they implode.