One thing we learnt from the Brexit referendum is that it takes a big personality to deliver constitutional change. That campaign started with Nigel Farage and was taken over by Boris Johnson. Both are great performers, hugely irresponsible, but capable of charming masses of people into following them into the sort of change that will make a big difference to their lives.
As politics in Northern Ireland shapes up into a contest over whether or not we stay in the UK, or merge with the Irish Republic, no similar charismatic figure emerges with the power to sway doubters.
But look at Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon is campaigning for independence and looks likely to achieve it. She is popular and she is admired.
It is notable that she has not secured her popularity through asserting that demand for independence. The popularity came first and the demand for independence gained credibility because she was seen as dependable and likeable. And she is liked, in part, because she is personable and articulate, but also because she has impressed voters by her political skill.
It follows that, since she is competent, or appears so, in her management of the Covid crisis, she is the sort of person you can trust to deliver an independent Scotland. That might not be strictly logical, but politics usually isn't.
Now that she is in some possible bother over claims that she sought to damage her predecessor, Alex Salmond, the question arises whether Scottish independence could be delivered by a replacement leader.
A commentator on Channel Four last week reached back into Irish history for a leader whose fall didn't damage the cause of independence and came up with Charles Stewart Parnell. It was not a heartening example.
Parnell had been an MP in the Westminster Parliament, campaigning for Home Rule for Ireland - mere devolution, as we call it now - and he was brought down by a scandal.
He had a lover, Kitty O'Shea, and in Victorian times and right up to the 1980s that was enough to ruin a party leader, or minister.
Irish independence didn't come until 30 years after the death of Parnell and it split the country. It followed a war led by republicans with much stronger demands than Parnell's.
Our Nicola Sturgeon, or Charles Stewart Parnell, is Mary Lou McDonald. She wants to deliver a majority in both Irish jurisdictions in favour of a united Ireland. But to succeed in swaying doubters, she has to win their love and admiration.
Nicola Sturgeon is interesting for things other than her core ideology. For instance, she gets invited to book festivals to interview authors.
The comedian Jane Godley performs an hilarious dub-over of her Press conferences, in which Sturgeon is depicted swearing, scolding and scoffing. And the beauty of it is that Sturgeon loves this, plays up to it, is not damaged at all by it.
Can you imagine if one of our local funny women was to provide us with a similar take-off of McDonald, or Michelle O'Neill, or Arlene Foster? Oh, bring on the day.
How likely is it that we would be laughing along with it, treating it as an affectionate tribute?
The fact is, it is simply inconceivable, because our leaders are not personalities. To be personalities, they have to show sides of themselves that are not relevant to their politics. They have to be people who remain likeable, even when they blunder.
Nicola Sturgeon, like Farage and Johnson, carries off the trick of being at once ideological and at the same time being not so serious about the big vision that she can't be content in herself today. Imagine her going home at the end of the day and you see her kicking off her shoes, pouring a glass of whisky and asking if there's anything good on Netflix.
The leader who impresses is also one who gets things done. Johnson's effort to impress as such was making him look foolish and undependable until he beat the world in getting his country vaccinated against Covid.
In reality, he is actually incompetent, tells people what they want to hear and, if he had a heart, he would not be able to sleep for thinking about the tens of thousands of people who might have lived had he and his Government not faffed around while intensive care wards were filling up.
His foolish optimism failed to reckon in time with the threat from the virus and produce an adequate response.
But he is lucky. My friend in Dublin doesn't expect to get vaccinated until May. I got vaccinated two weeks ago. If that isn't worth some votes, nothing is.
Mary Lou McDonald, Michelle O'Neill and Arlene Foster need to show more than that they are committed to ending, or preserving, the Union. They need to produce results in the politics of now.
The only politician we have who is likely to take some credit for the management of the pandemic is Health Minister Robin Swann.
Swann comes across as competent and concerned. If he said we'd be better off in a united Ireland, you'd have to give it some thought, because he has past form in standing up and telling us hard truths.
He won't do that and I suspect he won't beat the drum for the Union, either, though he is a unionist, because he gets credit for doing his job, not for being an ideologue.
We do have some charismatic personalities in politics, notably Naomi Long and Claire Hanna, both of whom interact well with the public, yet appear to have lives of their own.
The paradox of politics is that you get credit for showing that there is more to you than your political convictions.
Gerry Adams outwitted those who would have dismissed him as a cynical warlord and sold himself to his public as a guy who read books, liked dogs, hill walking, tree hugging, hurling and good food. He understood that people like you more when you make an eejit of yourself the odd time.
I'm sure the added value that Sammy Wilson and Ian Paisley bring to their presentations of themselves has a similarly endearing effect on some people.
But we should not expect a small country to produce outstanding charismatic leaders. We have seen through coverage of the impeachment of Trump that even the US produces mostly dullards with little more talent than you would find in the average rural district council.
But without personable and persuasive leadership, the mass of the electorate will prefer things to stay just as they are.