On Thursday last week I became conscious of a new word: kakistocracy. It was in relation to the unhinged outgoing administration of Donald Trump.
Derived from the Greek words, kakistos (worst) and kratos (rule). The dictionary describes it as a system of government run by the worst and least qualified citizens. Following the buffoonery at Stormont over an extension to further Covid restriction, this column could end here.
The shenanigans and shape-shifting between and within the political parties is nothing new. To say that the public has low expectations of the Executive would be an understatement. But despite past debacles, it is the challenge of Covid-19 which is proving to be well above their pay grade.
The New Deal, New Approach upon which the return of Stormont was predicated is a mirage. It is the same old parties with the same partisan practices producing poor results.
Covid-19 was always going to be challenging. For a start, it is a new virus which seems to be still mutating. The consequences of getting the forecasting wrong could be devastating at both an economic and human level.
Secondly, the NHS that was always going to be the front line against coronavirus was not in battle ready condition. Ten years of Tory cuts and a grossly overly layered management structure meant that the NHS was light on resources and not flexible enough to adapt. Only the dedication of doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals and a good luck has got us this far.
Thirdly, the political leadership required was Churchillian. We got Chaplin. The devolved regions initially had the resolve to take on the fight but they lacked capacity and funds. Downing Street was as rudderless as a dinghy in a storm.
The dysfunctional nature of Stormont was laid bare from the start. It was more than clear the strategy on a small but divided island to a threat like Covid-19 should have been joined up. The DUP responded with a 40-ft barge pole. When it was suggested the Army could help with the logistics of setting up a field/ Nightingale hospital some in Sinn Fein went into a state of near apoplexy. Common sense couldn't bridge cultural fault lines.
The complete lockdown almost worked. The political leaders gave the impression of us all being in this together. But that collegiality did not last. Sinn Fein flagrantly decided to flout the rules they imposed on others and some DUP MPs acted like clowns by disparaging public health messaging. From there on political credibility and moral authority was threadbare.
The Covid restrictions 'compromise' plan agreed by the DUP, Alliance and UUP is a tiny fig leaf trying to mask a huge chasm. As the saying goes, it is neither fish nor fowl. It is incapable of achieving any meaningful inroad against the spread of the coronavirus. And it runs contrary to the advice offered to the Executive by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr McBride and the Chief Scientific Officer, Prof Young.
Sinn Fein was correct to vote against this plan - though they were seriously compromised by having suggested a similar approach a few days earlier. The SDLP decision to abstain is bewildering in view of their consistent messaging about following the medical and scientific advice. One suspects, once the DUP weaponised the veto procedure, that the SDLP may have been concerned that any votes simply 'for and against' the medical advice would break down on nationalist/unionist lines and thus further weaken the overall public health messaging.
Alliance leader Naomi Long only went with the 'compromise plan' reluctantly. Robin Swann, the Health Minister shortly after the plan was announced felt upset enough to say it "was far short" of what he wanted. And this is from the man at the front line - the Health Minister.
Tom Kelly is a political commentator and writer