THERE’S an old word game I vaguely remember playing as a kid. The objective was to connect two otherwise simple words together, to create a third concept, something that scared you, annoyed you or brought you untold pleasure.

“Ice cream” was an easy starter for ­infants but as you grew older the game became more tense and more knowing. A typical example might be “bath time” – the clarion call of frustrated mothers across Scotland every Sunday night.

According to the rules, the words must make sense separately and cannot be joined by the word “and”, thus ruling out ­potential classics like “fish and chips” or “bangers and mash”.

It’s a joy to see the game trickling across the internet and back into public life again. While it may never outstrip the popularity of Wordle, it’s a game that provides fleeting moments of reflection.

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Many people dwell on the words they hate hearing at work – “lunch meeting”, “conference call” and “team building” – fearing that their daily life has become a “brain storm” with David Brent.

Consumerism is another area of ­modern anxiety, think “self service”, “bagging area” and the grimly ­depressing ­“unexpected item”. But increasingly the dystopia of the cost of living crisis is ­cropping up too with the worryingly familiar “energy bill”, “tax return” and “mortgage payments”.

My own personal anxiety is “eye ­contact”, two relatively simple words that when brought together can trouble even the most confident socialite. Making eye contact is a skill that is for many difficult to perfect. For young teenagers, those on the autism spectrum and others that are naturally shy, making eye contact can be stressful and self-injurious.

Last week’s top-ranking two-word ­expression online was “leadership ­contest”, a nod to the excruciating circus of right-wing smugness that visited Perth this week and attracted yet another round of unmerited media attention.

It is staggering how much air-time has been given over to this ­roadshow, ­especially by public service ­broadcasters, who otherwise trumpet the cause of ­balance and impartiality, but lose their marbles when it comes to the ­Conservative leadership race. Most have simply ­accepted the arcane Tory ­membership rules rather than arguing that a general election might be a better way of testing democracy.

Then there’s’ the “free market” – I ­cannot remember when a political dogma has been given so much space to bark on air, without any corresponding critique or any underlying theoretical opposition.

It would be unthinkable that a ­national television network would offer Mick Lynch of the RMT union and Roz ­Foyer, general secretary of the STUC, an ­opportunity to tour the UK, ­discussing ­inflated executive pay, the benefits of ­public ownership and their views on the crisis of modern capitalism.

Anyone who has endured the Liz Truss/Rishi Sunak roadshow and still believes that the media is a left-leaning conspiracy has been dunking acid tabs in their Baileys.

Yes, the two Tory aspirants have been asked set-piece questions about the cost of living crisis and the teetering economy and, yes, some TV journalists have put them under greater scrutiny than ­others, but rarely have either of them been nailed down to explain the failures of Boris ­Johnson’s premiership, his absence from duty and the failures of Brexit and its false promise of a wealth-enabling free market.

Truss has been allowed to evoke ­Margaret Thatcher as a national icon but never asked to defend the ruination of the manufacturing base, the attack on the social fabric of whole communities, the scandals of the Poll Tax, Hillsborough and the Miners’ Strike. You cannot wear the dark-blue frock and duck the obvious associations.

The National: Miners strike

We know that the depth of Sunak and Truss’s understanding of Scotland and its constitutional politics is paper thin but just how thin has become starkly visible in the past few weeks.

The annual ­Scottish Household ­Survey – which interviews more than 10,000 adults – found that just 15% trusted ­Westminster to work in the best ­interests of the country. That stark statistic or ­anything like it has not been part of the right-wing roadshow.

Without exception, the entire debate has been framed as saying no to a ­second referendum, ignoring almost all of the ­underlying issues: Scotland’s place ­within Europe, our greater need for inward ­migration, our significance as a producer of alternative energy in the face of the current power and water crises, and the vulnerability of our separate National Health Service if privatisation in England is allowed free rein.

ALL of these important and complex issues have been subsumed within England’s framework of political debate. A simplistic no or even “ignoring” Nicola Sturgeon has become the best they can offer.

When it comes to Scotland, the only thing that seems to register with these two lightweight candidates is how ­resistant they are to constitutional change, and how much they feel the need to portray intransigence over intelligence.

For decades now we have tolerated a media which broadly believes that two simple words like, say, “trade union” are to be represented as the spawn of Satan, while another two words, “free market”, are seen as the starting point to all ­society’s economic challenges: by ripping up “red tape”, establishing “free ports” and most chilling of all, introducing ­“charter cities”.

Watching the debate in Perth and all that surrounded it – the set-piece soundbites, the grotesque parade of posh voices that left the building and the noisy and sometimes unpalatable protests ­outside – left me angry, not at a few rogue words or even the crass behaviour of some angry protesters, but that Scotland’s noisy democracy has been excluded from the circus.

The Perth Concert Hall square is a ­public realm I know well. I had the ­lifetime ­privilege to be the host of a ­raucous ­party of 20,000 locals when St Johnstone ­returned home as Scottish Cup winners in 2014, having defeated James Cook’s Dundee United the previous day.

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Poor old James – universally seen as one of the good guys and a man with a great sense of humour – was called a traitor by some clown, at the very point when he seemed willing to engage with a woman about the Claim of Right. That is a discussion I would have paid to listen to and one that for all its reach, the BBC should be broadcasting.

The Martyrdom of James Cook has been one of the juiciest by-products of the Tory Tour, in part because it has shone a torch on another two-word classic – “Tory scum”.

Although it is not a term I use, or even feel wholly comfortable about writing, I cannot get myself into a lather about it ­either, especially in a week where ­virtually every columnist in Britain has twisted themselves into “reef knots” about the sanctity of freedom of speech.

The attack on Salman Rushdie and the controversy around the cancelling of Jerry Sadowitz at the Pleasance in ­Edinburgh has brought into sharp relief the tensions of freedom and ­ responsibility but they also unlocked a near unanimous belief that free speech is a ­vital part of an active democracy, except, it seems, when it offends middle-class taste and decency.