NO-ONE in politics should ever lose their passion for setting the world to rights. If they no longer know what change they want to secure then should go and do something else.

But a vision is not the same as an act. Wishes are not deeds. Making an idea into a reality, particularly in the craft of law-making, takes hard, detailed work.

A couple of examples from this week will suffice. The first was the attempt by two Green MSPs – Alison Johnstone and Mark Ruskell – to change the law on animal welfare with regard to a number of species.

Alison’s amendment to the Wildlife Bill that finished its passage at Holyrood on Wednesday focused on the plight of the mountain hare. I have, as environment secretary, watched hares in their winter coats playing on a snow covered hillside in the Cairngorms so I didn’t need much persuasion to help ban their indiscriminate slaughter. I would have liked to have seen Alison showing a bit more grace in accepting widespread parliamentary support to do so but she won the day after a long and detailed campaign in which she knew what she wanted and – very importantly – was able to work out legislatively how to get it.

Alas that was not Mark Ruskell’s approach. Unfortunately I have experienced it before when during the passage of the Franchise Bill he pursued the issue of giving votes to asylum seekers. I was far from unsympathetic but I had already scoped the challenges and discovered the very substantial difficulties of it making happen at this particular time.

None the less I opened doors for him so that he could understand the practical and technical pitfalls and the fact that whilst it was something worth doing, doing it in the way he proposed would actually put in jeopardy the progress we were making to give the vote to the widest group of nationals from other countries that had ever been attempted.

But Mark is never convinced by mere facts. Not only did he refuse to accept the advice, he scathingly attacked me and my colleagues for being timid in our commitment to reform. He then insisted on pressing a proposal which it would have been kind to call-half baked.

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In other words he grandstanded appallingly, just as he did on a number of wildlife issues on Wednesday. He hadn’t done the right work in the right way and in the end that was the fatal flaw.

Legislation needs to be clear, precise and capable of implementation in order to be successful. I wish that in this, as in much of life, a good intention was enough. But it isn’t. Moreover, making the wish into the deed is usually a team effort, not a solo performance undertaken for the applause.

Another much bigger illustration of this came from Boris Johnson on Monday when he met with the EU Commission, Council and Parliament to discuss the Brexit process. To say Johnson doesn’t do detail is like saying that the sky is blue but to allow a man with so limited a grasp about governance anywhere near the most complex set of negotiations in many generations is just asking for trouble.

The “intensification” of the Brexit negotiating process is meaningless if there are not new proposals for the table, and as Johnson’s sole thought (apart from later in the week the desirability of importing Australian biscuits) appeared to be to urge the EU to work harder and give more ground to Brexiteers then the process is going to be what computer programmers used to call GIGO – garbage in, garbage out – with a bad deal as the outcome if there is any deal at all.

Johnson’s passion and vision isn’t about change, it is about preserving himself. It is about holding power, not making a difference. There is no such political philosophy as “Johnsonism” nor ever will be and he has done nothing to develop his own knowledge and skills in governing. As a result his negotiating hand like his policy platform is always going to be full of bluff but empty of substance or long-term success.

The boring side of government is the technical side – the nuts and bolts of statecraft, legislation and public service. They win no praise but until you are able to master them, and keep them mastered, anything you achieve is likely to quickly turn to dust.

The Greens have time to learn that if they wish to do so. Johnson never will.