REGULAR readers might be expecting me to comment in this week’s column on the launch of the Tory manifesto, which took place on Sunday. But I’m not going to bother.

The reason is the same as I gave in last week’s column, on the subject not just of specific manifestos but of politicians’ attitudes in general at this crux in the country’s affairs. To hell with their blather and bilge. Referring then to the various campaigns, Tory and other, which had already become absurd enough in their statistical delusions, I said: “Not that it really matters because, in the cold light of the dawn after polling day, nobody will care a damn about promises, least of all the politicians who made them.”

By now the promises have turned even crazier, and there is still more than a fortnight to go till the polls open. The basic fact remains that a plummeting pound and increasing interest rates will define 2020 for most of us.

My comments on the coming tumble seemed to me merely commonplace, but they put reader Rachel Wentworth in high dudgeon. She wrote in with this counterblast: “You might not, Fry, but I intend to hold my representatives in both Holyrood and Westminster responsible for those promises.” It would be interesting to learn what precise significance Rachel attaches to the phrase “hold responsible”. Does it mean, if the promises are not kept, she will vote against her representatives next time round – in five years for Westminster, in three years for Holyrood – she being one among millions of voters? Diddums. Or will she go on Question Time and put forward an awkward point, which they will ignore while they recite their rehearsed lines? Good luck with that one. Wow, the entire political class must be trembling in their wee cotton socks while they wait with dread for Rachel to hold them responsible.

I wrote that last column in the same ideological context as I write all my columns, on the view that the modern UK is an elective dictatorship which we dignify by the name of the absolute sovereignty of Parliament. We use this term in order to underline its unbroken history, as over the centuries the absolutism of the monarch was gradually devolved so as to become embodied in representative institutions. The absolutism did not change, however, only its embodiment. In this respect the UK is radically different from most other modern states, resting on constitutions with rights for the citizens which these can legally uphold and defend. We cannot. And I believe the UK is unreformable. That’s why I want out, along the pathway of an independent Scotland.

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My convictions are fortified by the political situation at this moment. Boris Johnson evidently believes in absolute sovereignty, but not in the legislative way that prevailed from the middle of the 19th century to the beginning of the 21st century. No, he believes in the absolutism of an executive which does not shrink from acting outside law and precedent, resting only on the parliamentary majority, however slim, he is now trying to win. If he succeeds, not even the House of Commons will be able to “hold him responsible”, let alone the voters – sorry about that, Rachel.

We have enjoyed a foretaste of all this in Boris’s attempt at the prorogation of Parliament. The UK today has a Supreme Court to which we can take appeals against constitutional wrongs, and it was the Supreme Court – not Parliament itself – that in this case gave us redress. Let’s not forget the major part the Court of Session also played in Edinburgh, but the court in London was the one that went on TV and proved a joy to watch. I will always remember the president of the court, Lady Brenda Hale, a figure like a little songbird who with gleeful and sprightly precision picked apart Boris’s power grab. Now she’s going to the judiciary of Hong Kong, and I hope she can do something to help its brave and free people in their struggle against oppressive socialism.

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But today I want to concentrate on another retired justice of the Supreme Court, Lord Jonathan Sumption, once described in the spin doctor’s diaries of Alastair Campbell as having a “brain the size of a planet”. Sumption this year gave the Reith Lectures. He started off with characteristic crystal clarity: “My subject, in these lectures, is the place of law in public life. The twin themes that I want to explore are the decline of politics and the rise of law to fill the void.” Hard to think of anything more timely. Now the lectures have been published under the title Trials of the State.

The book is hard going, but rewarding. You can get a taste of it on BBC iPlayer from Mark d’Arcy’s programme BOOKtalk. I watched in wonder as the points put forward by d’Arcy, who is no fool, were sliced up and placed smack-dab in the hierarchy of Sumption’s thinking. His lordship defined himself as a Tory who sometimes votes Labour, but I found him more like a Victorian liberal, on the pattern of John Stuart Mill, that heir to but destroyer of the Scottish Common Sense philosophy. Sumption, too, leads his readers persuasively to positions which, when they stop to think, they might not find comfortable.

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It is worth recalling that the first book Sumption ever published, in 1979, was co-authored with Sir Keith Joseph and called Equality. It was one of the key texts in the breaking of the post-war leftist consensus in UK politics. It argued what I have continued to argue in this column, that equality is an impossible social ideal, beyond some basics such as political rights to vote and so on, and legal rights to be treated impartially in the courts. I have called out my critics to say exactly what else they might mean by equality – in, say, the Scottish labour market – but have never got an answer: any reader of this column is warmly invited to offer one. Meanwhile I’m entitled to regard equality as merely a mantra to be mumbled by politicians, at Holyrood and elsewhere, too idle to work out what they mean by it – on the same pattern as Boris Johnson, in fact.

To take a more difficult example from Joseph and Sumption, they contended that a fundamental error of egalitarianism was to maintain that class had anything to do with material wealth. “Class distinctions are cultural rather than economic,” they wrote, “they exist precisely because money is not highly enough regarded to perform the function of differentiating between men.” In turn this explained why class was a weak phenomenon in “rootless materialist societies like the United States and West Germany”. By contrast, class was stronger “in traditional societies like England and France where money is not the universal measure of an individual’s value”. We can surely say the same of Scotland too.

I cite this challenging book to remind us that, even when politics is at its most squalid and trashy – like now – there are still deep forces at work in our society sure to produce results for a future real world that will need to confront and ponder them. And there are also heroes of our democracy, whose thinking remains fearless even at the price of popularity.

The deep decay of the UK system makes me all the more certain that before long Scotland will become an independent nation. One of the first things its citizens will have to do is vote themselves a constitution, which I hope will be as distant as possible from the present absolutist model, with a separation of powers and checks and balances among them. I don’t suppose it will make politicians’ behaviour improve, but at least holding them responsible will then become a feasible aim.