THE rapid spread of the coronavirus is a real threat to us all. It has the ability to strike anyone. Rich and poor alike are at risk. We all need to take the appropriate precautions and encourage others to do likewise.

That said, the world keeps turning, and this column has a duty to keep you abreast of what our governors are doing and planning.

Our uncodified constitution permits them to do pretty much what they like, and you might hope they would be focussed like a laser beam on dealing with the coronavirus.

You might harbour this hope, but if so, you are likely to be disappointed. Westminster has time, it seems, to devote itself to other concerns. Matters that some might regard as less than pressing.

For example, a recent column highlighted the case of Luke Graham, formerly of this parish. We revealed that the former MP for Ochil and South Perthshire was slated for a top position on Boris Johnson’s team. Last week, his appointment became official. Moreover, the man who failed to convince the good folks of Kinross and Alloa and thereabouts to scorn independence and vote Unionist is to advise on “the Union”.

In short, Graham has failed upwards. In this respect, he joins other Tories on the well-oiled gravy train for electoral rejects.

Political observers should now anticipate his regular appearance on BBC politics programmes.

As we also pointed out, he will likely now have much more influence on Scotland’s constitutional future than John Nicolson MP, who replaced him. Now comes news that Chris “failing” Grayling (pictured right) is to be chair of the UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.

Even Tories are outraged this role has gone to one who is credited with such staggering incompetence in the past.

According to journalist John Crace: “Grayling is the failure’s failure. A parliamentary museum piece who has yet to find a job he can’t do badly. At the last count he has cost the country £3 billion in the past five years. That means we could have paid him £1 billion to stay at home, watch TV, and still be £2 billion better off.”

But from Boris Johnson’s position, rewarding failure has a further advantage. In his new role, “Failing” Grayling will be dealing with publication of the so-called Russia report looking into funding of the Tories.

“Failing upwards” is merely the latest management fiasco of the Johnson regime. It is also characterised by the Peter Principle.

This axiom says that individuals in organisations are promoted to their level of incompetence. The Tory Government abounds with instances of the Peter Principle in plain sight. Ministers stumble at the despatch box when taxed with elementary points, while their boss smiles indulgently.

There is an old saying in business about managers. First-rate people appoint first-rate people; second-rate folks hire third-rate people; and third-rate people have fifth-rate appointees.

Smart people know that having other smart folks around enhances their plans. Second-raters are fearful of talented people and seek succour in folks who are non-threatening. Third-raters are simply looking for someone to make them look good by comparison, and to take the blame when things inevitably go wrong.

It has to be said that all of this nonsense does appeal to a large segment of Tory voters who rail against incompetence elsewhere but are blind to it in their own ranks.

In all of this chaos it behoves us to look for reasons. What motivates people to vote for charlatans and for charlatans to abandon the norms that got them into office?

Maybe the answer – or at least part of it – lies in the results of a YouGov poll on attitudes to empire.

A report in the Guardian notes: “A third of people in the UK believe Britain’s colonies were better off for being part of an empire, a higher proportion than in any of the other major colonial powers, a global survey has revealed.”

Britons are also more likely to say they would like their country to still have an empire than people in France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany or Japan, the YouGov polling found.

Conservative voters were almost twice as likely as Labour voters to yearn for Britain still to have an empire, while Brexit-supporting Leave voters were more than twice as pro-empire as leave voters.”

Happily, the small subsample of Scots polled thought the empire was “something to be ashamed of” rather than “something to be proud of”.

It is noteworthy, too, that of the scores of former countries of empire, precisely none wishes to become a colony again. And pretty much all of them have a written constitution.

This column welcomes questions from readers