IT seems apt in Brexit Britain to refer to a new book which re-examines the key tenet of Darwinian “survival of the fittest” evolutionary theory. Or as actor Zsa Zsa Gabor once concluded, after many years of empirical research: “Macho does not prove mucho.”

In Survival Of The Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins And Rediscovering Our Common Humanity, scientists Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods contest that Darwin’s natural selection maxim has been interpreted from the wrong angle.

It has been widely assumed that by saying “fittest”, Darwin meant tough physical strength, alpha male bombast and sheer stubborn will. But what if this survival had nothing at all to do with mucho macho and was more about friendly partnerships, good communication skills and smoothing out conflict?

Stay with me on this. Hare and Woods give the example of dogs in support of their argument, the more affectionate and less lethal descendants of wolves. Dogs chummed up with humans and changed their behaviours to adapt to being pets whereas wolves kept away from humans, preferring to stay in the wild. This friendliness has given dogs the trump card in the survival stakes as they now outnumber wolves by a factor of millions.

The same can be said of bonobo apes versus chimpanzees, the former governed by peace-loving females, who tend to share food rather than fight over it in comparison to the activity of the latter more aggressive war-mongering chimps. Bonobos are far more successful at producing offspring that the most successful alpha chimp. Just do the maths.

Hare and Woods argue that for humans to continue to evolve successfully, “friendliness is the winning strategy”. Just like dogs and bonobos, we are the more sociable human species to have evolved, allowing us to compete effectively against other, more cold-shouldered, antediluvian human species, now long extinct as a result. Our ability to co-operate and work as a team allows us to solve the hardest social problems while the Neanderthals in Europe and the Denisovans in Asia led lives which were not just as Hobbes had it “poor, nasty, brutish and short” but very crucially also “solitary”.

Hence the success of Homo sapiens and why we’re still standing and erectus while the bone fragments of Neanderthal man and woman pop up occasionally in a German peat bog and the tooth residuals of Denisovans are unearthed in Tibetan caves. In too good an opportunity to miss, I can’t help but draw some clear parallels from this study with our global political leaders and their style of governance in a time of crisis.

In UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson we have the epitome of the big clubbed bully surviving by picking off his enemies as the last caveman standing – remember the Tory cull last year which saw the demise of party grandees such as Dominic Grieve? If you’re not “fit” in the Johnson-Cummings play book, if you don’t agree with their controversial re-structuring project 100%, yer bum’s oot the windae. However, those left “surviving” in the Cabinet are thus a collection of yes-men and women, light on experience, heavy on toeing the party line. And the real flip side of this outcome is that they are led by a PM who is a true anti-co-operator, a confused communicator and breaker of long-term and positive bonds of friendship in his Brexit crusade.

Using Hare and Woods’s argument, Johnson’s survival shall not last because of his inability to join forces with anyone other than Cummings. For instance, his “world-beating” style of leadership (his words) has led to the UK’s position on the podium of shame of the three greatest mishandlings of the global pandemic across the planet. The terrible trio of international mishandlers of Covid are presidents Trump and Bolsonaro and Johnson.

The National: Donald Trump welcomes Jair Bolsonaro to the White House

READ MORE: Kevin McKenna: NEC Joanna Cherry stitch-up shows SNP has a ‘party within a party’

What these three bozos have in common is an aggressive, combative style which alienates and generates conflict in equal measure. They have shown that this dominant personality trait is about as useful as out of date PPE when it comes to applying the human touch to dealing with pandemics. Their lack of empathy has led directly to huge numbers of ordinary people not surviving this terrible health crisis and could well be the beginning of the end for these leaders’ positions too.

This is not just about gender. It is about deficient personalities and unfortunately there are female leaders who have been known to exhibit the self same fatal flaws – closed decision-making, an inability to take criticism and intolerance of other points of view. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the world, an entirely different scenario is unfolding.

Since becoming prime minister, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern has been in the unenviable position of having to tackle a major terrorist attack, a deadly volcanic eruption and a pandemic all in the same term, while also looking after her newborn baby. Quite a roll call of stress.

And yet she has done it all with great aplomb. Her elimination of Covid-19 in her country as well as the way her government handled the unfolding health crisis in the first wave has been praised around the world. Last week, images of Ardern shaking hands in crowded groups sent a clear message that New Zealand was in a very different place from countries where leaders had failed to meet the Corona virus challenge head on.

So, what is the big difference? A humane, person-centred approach, a robust following of WHO guidelines, steadfast focus on the importance of the matter in hand rather than distraction by personal projects, an ability to take guidance from experts and scientists, and, crucially, transparent practices. In every respect the exact opposite of Johnson.

In a recent interview with the educational charity, The Female Lead, Ardern summed it up in a section where she discusses leadership. In it she remarked “we teach kindness and empathy and compassion to our children but then we somehow, when it comes to political leadership, want a complete absence of that. So, I am trying to chart a different path”.

Good for her. And what a breath of fresh air in comparison to the petty, regressive and angry politics currently dominating the discourses at Westminster and unfortunately creeping in closer to home.

It looks like Hare and Woods are on to something. Working together, communicating and forming alliances to not just survive, but thrive. That’s the winning combination for resilience in this topsy-turvy world. Incidentally Zsa Zsa Gabor outlived all of her leading men!