ONE of the themes emerging from the chaotic SNP leadership contest is that the standard of debate and the personal qualities of the candidates themselves is of a low calibre. This has most often been espoused by politicians of a Unionist stamp, most especially by Conservatives and their fellow Union Jack devotees and footstools in Scottish Labour .

Several political commentators have also been coming wide on social media haughtily to disparage the abilities of Kate Forbes, Ash Regan and Humza Yousaf. Such has been their disdain for the candidates that they convey the impression we’ve all been experiencing a golden age of engagement in party leadership contests. I think not.

The last few contests to elect the leader of Scottish Labour passed without much comment simply because it was widely assumed they’d be strictly small potatoes. This has since been borne out by the party’s choice of leaders.

Step forward Jim Murphy, Kezia Dugdale and (consults Google) Richard Leonard.

In winning the 2015 leadership contest, Mr Murphy had pledged that Labour would lose no more seats to the SNP at the Westminster election later that year. So, how did that work out? The SNP won 56 out of 59 seats and Labour lost 40 of their 41 seats, including Mr Murphy’s own East Renfrewshire redoubt.

Kezia Dugdale’s entirely unremarkable tenure ended with a few weeks in the Australian jungle. While being paid by the Scottish taxpayer, she took tens of thousands of pounds from Channel Four to go dooking for monkey nuts in tanks full of scaly critturs. It was entirely analogous with life inside Labour’s Scottish branch office.

Then came Richard Leonard, of whose leadership it can only be said that it rose and descended entirely without trace.

RECENT contests to elect leaders of the UK Conservative Party make the Scottish Labour selections look like gatherings of Nobel laureates. For the prosecution, I give you one name: Boris Johnson.

His entire campaign and tenure of office is best summed up with reference to the film Elf, a thoughtful etude on mass market consumerism and the redemption/reconciliation paradigm. At one point, Buddy the Elf sagely observes of a fake Santa Claus character: “You sit on a throne of lies.”

Mr Johnson blustered and blundered through his leadership contest with false promises made on the hoof. It was a winning strategy which matched the self-delusion of the UK Tories who duly elected him overwhelmingly. It also characterised his entire period of leadership which crashed and burned in a whirlwind of corruption; lawlessness and a pathological obsession with telling porkies.

In the contest to succeed him, the billionaire Rishi Sunak was observed telling Tory members in affluent Somerset that he intended to divert cash from needy northern English regions to more deserving, well-heeled neighbourhoods. Presumably, this was because they would invest it better rather than spending it all on Pot Noodle and scratch-cards.

OF course, when you reach a certain level of seniority in politics, failure and poor judgment are no bar to a golden, access-all-areas ticket to Scotland’s civic and academic gravy train.

Ms Dugdale, having dusted herself down after her short-lived stint on I’m A Celebrity and Youze Can All Take a F*ck to Yourselves, gained a professorship from Glasgow University. She now teaches leadership and kindness in politics at the John Smith Centre for Public Service in the faculty of Unicorns and Moonbeams.

The board of the John Smith Centre for Knowing Your Place and Never Rocking the Boat comprises former senior politicians from each of the UK’s main political parties. All of them derived their gilded positions in UK politics from ensuring that everyone knew their place and no one rocked the boat.

PRIOR to the SNP’s leadership hustings in Johnstone the other week, I encountered Murray Foote, the SNP’s media chief. Mr Foote’s path has crossed with mine several times over the course of a couple of decades (or more).

He was, as usual, in fine form, speaking kindly and knowledgeably about each candidate’s qualities. He was also eager to unburden himself of deep concerns about the continuing vicissitudes of his abiding passion in life: Dundee United FC.

His decision to resign his position on discovering he’d been misled by senior party figures on SNP membership numbers is consistent with his career in newspapers: brave, unselfish and suffused with integrity. It’s to be hoped that those at the top of the SNP – the real culprits – who placed him in this invidious position are now identified and made to resign. Peter Murrell stood down as chief executive yesterday.

As has become abundantly clear in recent years, you couldn’t mark the necks of this party’s executive class with a blow-torch.

Meanwhile, I’m sure Mr Foote will soon be taking a call from the John Smith Centre for Best Pronoun Practice.