‘LIONS led by donkeys” is the maxim used to describe the British army in the Great War. It conveys collective and enduring bitterness about the brave young men drowned in the blood and gore of Flanders, by their incompetent old buffoons of generals.

The exact origins of the phrase have long been debated but it is likely to go back a long way. There is for example an ancient Arabian proverb which says “An army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep”.

Most recently, exactly the same phrase has been used by the campaigning group Led By Donkeys to lampoon pro-Brexit politicians. Unfortunately for all of us, it is a condemnation equally applicable to the leadership in the “war” against the virus. The generals are the Johnson government and its advisers. The foot soldiers are the hard-pressed NHS and caring staff.

There has never been in recorded history a less suitable prime minister to guide a country through a serious crisis, than Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson branded liar by French journalist Marion van Renterghem

There is nothing whatsoever in the entire Johnson career procession which commands any confidence of any suitability to rise to a national emergency. While David Cameron was using the playing fields of Eton to prepare for leadership, Boris was playing the fool. While others embark on a journalist career to travel and broaden their minds, Johnson spent his time in Brussels lying about the European Union.

Now to cap it all there must be a chance that Johnson himself is afflicted with the brain fog associated with long Covid. Certainly there is something serious amiss.

Johnson has been a career-long dissembler and equivocator but he has never, ever been stuck for words. Hitherto the problem has not been drying up but on getting his streams of lack of consciousness to mercifully stop. The now infamous 20-second pause at the CBI Conference before launching into his Peppa Pig insights is a sign of much deeper mental malaise. In any rational political system he would be dispatched forthwith and the trickle of no-confidence letters appearing in the Tory Whips’ Office would turn to flood. Of course, in any rational system he would never have got the top job in the first place.

Now the fox is well and truly in the hen house. The first whiff of a vaccine resistant variant has produced near panic in the Johnson virus team. If Dominic Cummings was still lurking around he would be heading for the hills. This is understandable as it has laid bare the complacency and inadequacy which has typified the Johnson government’s response to the emergency. The failures are manifest.

They have ordered face masks back in England but the rules should never have been relaxed in the first place. They have clamped down on travel from South Africa and other African countries. But Omicron was positively tested weeks ago in South Africa and that horse has already bolted.

The UK boasts about providing 100 million vaccine doses for the developing world. However next to none of these are in the arms of the populations of the countries who need them most, where around 3% coverage is the current disgraceful norm. Every scientist worth their salt has warned for many months that the unvaccinated countries are a potential reservoir of viral variants.

And does the Johnson government complacency about 43,000 Covid cases a day not present the real and present danger of another UK variant? The country has become inured to hundreds of deaths each and every week as long as the NHS is not overwhelmed. But how about the level of infectivity? It is 10% of the current recorded world total and 10% of the world’s risk of homegrown disaster.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises UK health departments on jagging. It is totally unfit for the purpose of giving timely advice in a pandemic. This is the outfit, after all, which suggested vaccinating teenagers AFTER they were back at school spreading the contagion. Now they are scrambling to boost the booster shots which they have been hitherto rationing.

READ MORE: Wee Ginger Dug: We're in a critical phase of history for Scotland and the world

For example the six-month gap between vaccination and booster has been mysteriously scrapped with no admission that it lacked any scientific basis in the first place. The JCVI has been miles behind the viral threat in every major move and its political masters have been too weak to do anything other than hide behind their costly indecision.

My own guess at this very early stage is that we shall probably dodge the Omicron bullet. The only person to talk the slightest sense on this is the South African physician who identified it. She talks calmly and on an informed basis about her real patients real symptoms and indicates that, at least in terms of the acute stage of infection, they are not gravely ill. However until Covid is stamped out across the world we are all at risk from the next throw of the viral dice.

We escape from none of this in Scotland. Our Covid policy has been that of Westminster, with face masks on. That is except in the Scottish Parliament where, totally bizarrely, masks are not much in evidence. Boris pulls the strings on borders, furlough and vaccinations. All that really happens from Bute House is that each and every mournful announcement is explained more competently.

And that is where the lions and donkeys analogy ends. In the Great War, the lions were led, however ineptly, by their own generals. Scotland has the unwanted and tragic distinction, that we are led to perdition by another country’s donkeys.