A LOT of this makes you feel uneasy, like we’re trapped. The coronavirus and the constitutional crisis seem like twin events, predicaments teetering between the dystopian and the liberatory, between salvation and catastrophe.

Panning across the world as seen though social media is like being infected by a different form of virus, unsure whether this is “reality” or something worse. Here a Palestinian child is brutalised by Israeli forces, there a woman is attacked by the cops in New York; here witnesses report that police shot anti-fascist Michael

Forest Reinoehl without warning or trying to arrest him first. The doom-scrolling is addictive and mesmerising.

From Cold Springs in the north-west to Beachie Creek in Oregon to Dolan south of San Francisco, wild fires rage.

San Francisco Airport puts out a message ... “Orange skies at #SFO. Are you in the Bay Area? Share your photos. #OrangeSky”. This is an extraordinary new form of Apocalyptic voyeurism. Climate crisis as an Instagram moment.

Greg Jaffe, a national political reporter for The Washington Post, who had previously covered the White House and now does “social policy”, wrote a devastating long-form essay (A pandemic, a motel without power and a potentially terrifying glimpse of Orlando’s future) where he outlined the plight of the residents of the Star Motel whose owner abandoned it in December: “Now the motels outside Disney World were fast becoming places where it was possible to glimpse what a complete social and economic collapse might look like in America.”

If you think all of this seems alien and the brutality of Donald Trump’s America is something that we won’t witness here, think again. If the pandemic tells us anything it’s that “everything is connected” and the social fabric of Britain is as vulnerable and precarious as it ever has been, with the end of furlough meeting winter and No-Deal Brexit within a matter of weeks and months. Like our response to climate breakdown our response to Covid is the same – roll out the most basic ameliorative

efforts, ignore the reality of what we are experiencing and urge ourselves to tread on and “go back to normal” as quickly as possible, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that to do so is suicidal.

In this moment, in this unparalleled global crisis, the forms of leadership (on both sides of the Atlantic) seem pitiful and grotesque.

Writing in the New Statesman (The return of American fascism), Sarah Churchwell

compares the symbolism and imagery of Mussolini in the 1930s and Trump in the 2020s.

She writes: “Trump may lack the discipline and ­grandeur to which the original fascist spectacles aspired, but he doesn’t lack the grandiosity. What makes Trump so clownish is the delusional gap between the claims he makes and the figure he presents. Without discipline, the attempts at impressive bombast collapse into bathetic farce. The first fascists emphasised individual heroism and physical perfection: Trump emphasises it, too, but only in regards to himself. He is his own fascist sublime.”

She explores the iconography used by Trump and his family, such as the photo of Trump’s face superimposed on to the sculpted body of Rocky Balboa, or when on July 4, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr shared a meme of his father’s head Photoshopped on to George Washington’s body.

Churchwell writes: “The absurdity of this bizarrely entertaining spectacle does not make it less dangerous, but more so. The clownish aspect of both Hitler and Mussolini were often noted at the time – not for nothing did Charlie Chaplin lampoon Hitler in The Great Dictator (1940). The Ku Klux Klan was clownish, too, with its pointy hats, its puerile rituals, its risible attempts at occultism. As a historian observed in 1931, the Klan’s ‘preposterous vocabulary’ and ‘infantile love of hocus-pocus’ offered a ‘chance to dress up the village bigot and let him be a Knight of the Invisible Empire’. That didn’t make the Klan any less murderous.”

Our leaders are no less clownish.

Last week it was announced that Boris Johnson was “pinning hopes on £100 billion ‘moonshot’ to avoid second lockdown” – whilst simultaneously it was becoming clear that our “track and trace” was barely functioning as opposed to “world leading”. The Prime Minister is said to be pinning his hopes on a project that would deliver up to 10 million tests a day, even though the current testing regime struggles to deliver a fraction of that number. The documents presented said that the “Mass Population Testing Plan” could cost £100bn – the equivalent to the UK’s entire education budget.

Everything is vainglorious, exceptional, grandiose and magnificent, rather than competent, assured and planned and detailed in execution.

As the Conservatives swagger about how they are going to break international law, Health Secretary Matt Hancock faced howls of laughter when he announced Operation Moonshot in Parliament and entertained with a defence of the appointment of Tony Abbott to Sky’s Kay Burley. She stated: “I said he’s a homophobe and a misogynist – you said, ‘But he’s also an expert on trade.’” The wonderfully inept

Hancock then blurted that “Tony Abbott’s sister, who is herself homosexual, said those accusations are wrong.”

Not to be undone in the competition for Car Crash Interview of the Week, Alister Jack spoke to the BBC’s Glen Campbell and tried to excuse and explain the commitment to illegality. “We’re standing up for Great Britain over Brussels and I make no apology for that,” he stammered, shifting uneasily and looking about as uncomfortable and unconfident as it is physically possible to be.

IN Westminster a remote question was put to the putative Secretary of State for Scotland by Mhairi Black MP. She asked him: “Today the UK Government have published their Internal Market Bill and I want to ask specifically about clause 46, which states that any UK minister of the crown may promote and directly provide economic development effectively allowing the UK powers to legislate in the following devolved areas – health, education, water, electricity, courts and pensions facilities, housing, the list goes on ... So Minister, am I correct in my understanding that when this Government says they are ‘strengthening the Union’ what they really mean is ‘dismantling devolution’”?

The clownish and the inept are everywhere but the Trump-Johnson spectacle isn’t really a mirror. If Trump is everywhere, Johnson appears nowhere at all. If Trump seems to dominate everything in a mesmerising blizzard of social media and an ever-present tirade of gibberish, Johnson seems ever-absent, a fleeting glimpse of incoherent bravado scattered with classical references then gone like an Etonian Houdini. The Prime Minister is an absence and the void is filled by his spectacularly inept goons and ministers.

Last week has seen the grim realisation that we’re not coming out of lockdown, that we’re not “going back to normal” (whatever that means) and this isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, it’s getting worse. So too are relations between the British Government and their Europan counterparts and the British Government and their Scottish counterparts.

John Harris, one of a handful of commentators who “gets” what’s happening in Britain, noted: “Covid-19 is a great accelerator. In most of the countries it has struck, whatever inequalities, divisions and tensions were festering before its arrival have now sped into the political foreground. And so it has proved here. Race, class, gender, poverty, wealth, the north-south divide – even though it often feels as if time has stood still, all of these things are now vividly in front of us, demanding attention. And one key issue has come roaring back: the fate of the United Kingdom itself. Brexit and the pandemic are pushing its countries and regions in strikingly different directions.”

Harris concludes: “Clearly, nothing highlights our increasingly unsettled, estranged national condition better than the politics of Scotland. One should always hesitate before claiming that mere polls represent historic shifts, but in the last few months, a number of surveys have found support for Scottish independence running at more than 50%. Leaving aside undecideds, a Panelbase poll last week put the for-and-against numbers at 55 and 45 respectively: an elegant inversion of the 2014 referendum result, and another excuse for stories about political shockwaves supposedly now spreading from Edinburgh to London. The superficial explanation is obvious. As one Tory put it to me last week, Nicola Sturgeon has succeeded in creating a contrast between her Government’s ‘cautious and communitarian’ approach to Covid-19 and the idea that Boris Johnson’s administration has been ‘chaotic and market-driven.’”

Chaotic and market-driven it certainly is but the fallout is not just being seen in soaring polling for the SNP, for the Greens and for independence (the latest Survation polls show the SNP could sweep constituencies as in 2011 and give the Greens more seats than ever on the list).

There is an obvious constitutional price for Johnson’s regime as they sleepwalk into the end days of the Union. But their spectacular mismanagement of the virus may have a domestic cost, too. The virus is spreading again. Precisely why a functioning test, trace and track system is not in place by now is surely a criminal not just a political question. At what point the electorate in England wakes up to this tragedy isn’t yet clear, but when they do, there surely must be a judgement day for this shambolic and disgraceful administration.