WHEN I was quite young (it was a while ago) I was told we lived in a red and blue world. Politics was a simple choice between rosettes of those colours. Which side you were on was largely determined at birth. And despite the efforts of some strange other people (mainly with yellow rosettes, back then) that was how things were going to stay, I was told. The result was that most people accepted that a First-Past-The-Post electoral system suited the UK just fine.

I might be old enough to remember such times, but they really do belong to ancient history. Or rather, they should. However, precisely because of the First-Past-The-Post electoral system, the possessors of those blue and red rosettes still think that Westminster is theirs to dominate.

The trouble for all those of red and blue persuasion is that anyone outside Westminster, and even a great many of those who are now there, do not agree, and for very good reason.

The National:

Scotland, and the SNP, provide the best example of why this electoral system is so wrong. The SNP are over-represented in Westminster but their presence there is ignored by Labour and Tories alike.

This is no way to run a democracy. It is also no way to run a country.

The reality is that it is the job of a government to run a country, and as everyone knows, any organisation works best when those within it think that they are being managed well, and for their benefit. This is just as true for countries as it is for companies, sports teams and anything else you care to think of.

No one would pretend that achieving this goal is easy. But what is obvious is that some things make success very much harder.

Divide and rule 

One such thing that reduces the chance of success is playing to factional interests. There is no chance of creating unity around common interests within the country if those in charge are mainly intent on managing by using divide and rule tactics. Despite that it is very clear that this is the primary occupation of both the Tories and Labour right now: The Tories on race, and Labour on Scotland and co-operation with the SNP.

Then there is the problem of credibility if the solutions offered by those in charge do not inspire confidence. In the case of the Tories, seeking to change facts by passing laws that defy reality is no solution to any known problem, and yet that is what they appear to be seeking to do right now by passing a law to say that Rwanda is a safe place for refugees when it very clearly is not.

Labour, meanwhile are defying public opinion on Gaza. When they are so obviously doing so to spite the SNP this looks to be petty, at best, and callous at worst.

After that there is the problem that both the Tories and Labour seem to think expelling their own members is a way out of their problems. Very few people have ever had confidence in managers who think that the way to deal with dissent is to sack those who raise difficult issues, but that is exactly what both are doing.

The conclusion most people in the country should have reached as a result is that we are being led by a government that is utterly hopeless at managing its own affairs, let alone those of the country. Meanwhile, Labour have no greater competence to offer.

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We're heading for crisis

This matters for three reasons. First, the credibility of the UK’s democratic system is at stake. If it cannot deliver good government, as seems to be likely, it must be flawed. The good people we need are not getting near government.

Second, there is the problem for the economy. If neither the Tories nor Labour can manage their own parties it is reasonable to conclude that they have little chance of managing the economy well either.

Third, there is the Scottish dimension, which remains, as ever, how to get out of this mess?

I have no obvious answers to these questions. My fear is we are heading for a crisis because incompetence on the scale currently being displayed cannot last for long. Then a way forward might become apparent. If so, that crisis cannot come too soon, except that in such situations even worse outcomes are possible.

I think we are living in dangerous times.