WHY Fergus Ewing was giving the annual Donald Dewar Memorial Lecture is for the organisers to explain and the rest of us to ponder and perhaps scratch our heads.

Apparently, however, he included in his text the thought that there was currently a dearth of “formidable” politicians. He is not wrong.

It’s quite difficult to think of a time on both sides of the border when the top jobs were filled with so many relative ­mediocrities.

As the latest polling came out in ­Scotland, one of the more excitable commentators wondered if Labour could wrest a wheen of seats from the SNP and if that might herald another Lab/LibDem coalition ­administration.

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Possibly time to reflect that the first of that coalesced breed was orchestrated with Donald Dewar (below) as first minister and Jim Wallace as his number two. If you can spot two comparable talents at Holyrood right now then your eyesight is considerably sharper than mine. (That was also an era when the LibDems needed more than one cab to get them to work.) There probably never was a golden age of politics, but there were times when ­people of some substance ruled various roosts. That time is not now.

The National: Donald Dewar standing in front of the site where the new Scottish Parliment will be built.

Cast your eyes further south if you can bear it. The office occupied by the ­Foreign Secretary is possibly the grandest in ­Whitehall. You could probably play tennis in it if it wasn’t for that huge, damned desk taking up so much floor space.

Over the years some people of talent and integrity have parked their bahookie ­behind it: Labour’s Tony Crosland and Robin Cook, the Conservatives’ Peter ­Carrington and Douglas Hurd.

There have been some doozies, mind you. George Brown wasn’t daft but he wasn’t ­always sober either. And things really ­began to go pear-shaped when Theresa May ­inexplicably gave the gig to Boris Johnson.

There’s a clip of Johnson landing somewhere or other and asking an aide to give him a steer as to who they were and what they did. You’d never have guessed from his subsequent speech that he’d only imbibed the info a very few minutes before.

Which wasn’t the fault of his civil ­servants. You can take a minister to a proper and timeous briefing paper, but you can’t make him read it. Or ­anything much demanding a modicum of ­concentration in Johnson’s case.

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The merger of the Foreign and ­Commonwealth Office with the Department for International Development – presumably in order to cut the aid budget by stealth – brought to that grand ­office some more ­errors of judgement including, ­unbelievably, Liz Truss, and ­ subsequently, Dominic Raab who would have been a much better fit in an anger management programme.

And now Lord “call me Dave” Cameron (below), whose international triumphs include the collapse of Libya and the disastrous ­Brexit referendum. It’s perhaps revealing that the current Prime Minister – sometimes it’s difficult to keep up, I know –couldn’t find a new incumbent from some 350 sitting Tory MPs.

The National: Former prime minister David Cameron

So Dave got the ermine-clad call. At least he’s probably got a half-decent ­contacts book.

And I suppose he’s a bit of an upgrade on some of the utter nonentities cluttering up the UK Government front bench at the ­moment, some of whom are only household names in their own households.

It would be comforting to think that Holyrood too was a bit of an upgrade on the Commons, but, truthfully, it’s not presently stuffed with fabulously gifted politicians either.

I don’t agree with former Tory MSP Adam Tomkins who told the Holyrood Sources podcast that there are only 10 to 15 truly talented MSPs currently there, and that the rest are “dross”.

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That’s too harsh by far, but when you look around the chamber it has to be said that a goodly number, of all persuasions, got their ticket to ride because their parties often used the candidate selection process to settle old scores rather than seeking out the brightest and best.

Some of us still recall when the SNP’s president, Michael Russell and his ­colleague Andrew Wilson were ­unceremoniously dumped down the list in order to ensure their election wouldn’t happen.

It may be that by the time you read this, Michael Matheson will be ­spending a lot more time with his family than he’d planned. It may be that he will have had to resign, or that his party leader has ­concluded that the iPad saga is not going to go away until the Cabinet Secretary for Health does.

Like so many other high fliers, he will have found out the hard way that his ­political opponents will not really be ­satisfied until they have harried him into an early political grave. Think ­David McLetchie, think Wendy Alexander, think Henry McLeish.

Hell hath no fury like a parliamentarian with a juicy axe to grind.

No dog with a bone will hold a grudge more tenaciously. Though, having watched Mr Matheson make his ­obviously painful statement, I’m forced to admit to being somewhat sceptical that his lads watched the footy all on their lonesome on an iPad which was not dispensed for that purpose.

It’s true there are a number of fairly big nationalist hitters who were more ­surprised than anyone else to find ­themselves in the Commons after Scottish Labour famously imploded.

Some of them have already indicated they’re quitting at the next UK General Election. Some would like to come home to Holyrood but will have no less ­difficulty finding a berth since some who tried that trick were given the ­parliamentary ­equivalent of a dizzie.

In short, electors on both sides of ­Hadrian’s Wall may be looking for some heroes and heroines in whom to plight their troth, and concluding that there is something of a shortage of that commodity in the marketplace.

Electors might also be wondering why it is when they rise up to demand a certain course of action from their representatives that their pleas fall on deliberately deaf ears.

We learned that lesson when all manner of unlikely marchers took to the streets to try to stop the UK from blindly following the US into a war in Iraq from which that ­benighted country has still to recover.

We learned it during Brexit when those who presciently saw the UK would not be destined for some mythical sunlit ­uplands, but instead were likely headed for a global backwater were routinely scorned.

And we’re learning it all over again with the latest tragedy in the Middle East as tens of thousands of ordinary citizens plead with their parties to at least raise their voices against yet more slaughter whilst a political and diplomatic solution is sought and hammered out – as it will ultimately have to be.

All wars engender tragedies, and no war ever solves seemingly intractable divides.

There are currently representatives of several governments hurling around ­assorted capitals trying to find some ­common ground on which a cessation of hostilities can be discussed.

Yet just as there is no reasoning with the madmen of Hamas who fervently ­desire the end of the Israeli state, there is no reasoning with members of the ­current Israeli cabinet who fervently desire the eradication of the Palestinian Arabs.

The situation cries out for statesmen and women who have the bravery to cast aside their party and national playbooks here in the UK, in the USA, in the UN and in the Middle East.

People who have the vision to see that beyond their party and parliamentary bubbles, there are millions of people who share the pain of the bereaved, who know that one more baby dying in a cause for which they had no responsibility is one too many.

More urgently than ever we desperately need some political giants who can kick the political pygmies off the stage.