In a midsummer week that may culminate when — if — the sinister buffoon Boris Johnson becomes the 14th British prime minister of Queen Elizabeth’s near seven-decade reign, it is not hard to argue that politics have failed.
Even if Elizabeth was to consider the near 200 individuals who have been installed as prime ministers in former colonies where the British monarch remains, in name at least, head of state, it is unlikely that she could recall an individual less suited to leading a modern democracy.
That this sorry prospect looms as Britain, and by extension Europe, and particularly Ireland, faces the unprecedented challenge of Brexit turns the idea of Prime Minister Johnson from farce to tragedy.
It is tempting to invoke that oldest of all pleas for understanding — “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” — but the fantasies of exceptionalism at the root of Brexit, and fuelling Tory over-reach, make that generosity impossible.
Yet, despite that implosion, there is another, far more significant, far more pressing example of how politics have failed and of how that failure, engineered or otherwise, threatens our world.
It would be recklessly naive to describe Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman as a political figure. He seems more and more a despot, supporting barbarisms long-ago rejected in the West, but his weekend contribution on the second attack on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, in which he blamed arch-rival Iran, must be a cause for concern.
In an interview published yesterday, he said: “We do not want a war in the region... But we won’t hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity, and our vital interests.”
Last Thursday’s attacks came as Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe met Iranian leaders in Tehran. Iran has denied any role, though it has repeatedly warned it might block the Hormuz Strait oil lifeline in response to any attack.
The Saudi intervention adds to the narrative that began almost immediately after the attacks, when the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and then the president, Donald Trump, named Iran as the attackers.
This emboldened Mr Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, who advocate a policy of maximum pressure on Iran — despite occasional indications of reluctance from Trump.
This assertiveness is echoed in Tehran, where, for more than a year, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps pushed for Tehran to abandon the restrictions of a nuclear agreement Trump had scrapped.
However, they were drowned out by moderates, who argued that it was better to deepen the divide between the Trump administration and Europe on the 2015 deal.
Only time will tell who was behind the attacks; only time will tell if they were provocations in the tradition of the 1895 Jameson Raid or the 1939 Operation Himmler, which were stage-managed to justify military action.
Only time will tell if looming elections in America and Iran are factors, but one thing is certain: The dire prospect of regional conflict, provoked by a lack of restraint and moderation, is made all the more likely by the dire possibility of a Johnson premiership.