EVEN Michael Gove at his most sleekit was stumped. Introducing new “guidelines” on extremism, he was uncharacteristically lost for words when asked to describe what that actually was.

It wasn’t apparently the sort of chap who goes around saying long-standing ­female members of parliament should be shot, most especially if they were black as well. That was just banter with the staff, ­apparently.

(Total radio silence from the Tories, by the way, at the news Mr Frank Hester might have poured yet more millions into the Conservative kitty.) No suggestion of course that this kind of Hesteresque banter might lead to an ­actual MP being subsequently shot, as was ­David Amess. No connection obviously to the ­encouragement of real terrorists such as the deranged chap who murdered Jo Cox (below).

The National: Around 80 riders will cycle from Yorkshire to London for the annual Jo Cox Way event in memory of the .murdered MP (Jo Cox Foundation/PA)

Instead, when pressed, a handful of ­organisations were flagged up which might be thought to give rise to hostile actions. Three of which just happened to represent British Muslims.

It’s all of a piece with hundreds of ­thousands of citizens marching for a ­cessation of hostilities in Gaza being dubbed “hate-filled” despite a tiny ­number of arrests out of hundreds of thousands on the march.

All of a piece too with a panicked PM rushing a podium out of Number 10 to tell the nation democracy was at risk from extremists. You bet, Rishi. Just take a look round the Cabinet table, why don’t you.

You might also imagine that any group featured on the Government’s ­proscribed list will become de facto targets for those who want to ditch a multi-cultural UK in favour of some imaginary past life when only whiteys ruled the roost.

When even Priti Patel (below) – that most ­hardline of former home secretaries – is among those who think you just might have got all this wrong, you could imagine it’s time for a rethink.

The National: Home Secretary Priti Patel

What we did learn for a fact is that any organisation deemed to encourage hate would henceforth not be eligible for ­government funding. Strangely this dictum does not appear to apply to a government which thinks Rwanda is a safe place for refugees’ deportation. The Supreme Court begs to differ.

You will have noted, after having ­signally failed to get a single asylum seeker on a plane despite having bunged the ­Rwandan government north of £140m, that our ­cuddly Tory government has now resorted to naked bribery.

It’s hoping a three-grand sweetener will persuade failed asylum seekers that it was an African country with a seriously dodgy human rights record they really always wanted to go to.

You may think – I certainly do – that 140 million quid would have been rather ­better deployed to go after the ­traffickers who fleece desperate people for the ­privilege of crossing a busy sea lane in an unseaworthy craft.

You may think – I certainly do – that all this manufactured outrage is intended to shift the conversation on from the fact that no matter what wheeze is dreamt up, the various nations in the UK have ­decided it’s time to say ta-ta to the ­Tories.

As Stephen Flynn (below) observed on last Thursday’s Question Time, Scotland came to that conclusion well-nigh 70 years ago, but keeps getting landed with them thanks to that “precious Union”.

The National: Stephen Flynn was applauded for his performance on Question Time as he stood up for Palestine and

Not that Scotland is immune from the practice of rushing through legislation ­before the political brain has been fully engaged. At the end of this month, the Hate Crimes Bill will be enacted, ensuring that everybody with a real or imaginary grievance will be encouraged to tell our overworked cops about it.

If subsequently found guilty of ­deliberately “stirring up hatred”, the ­miscreant will be found to have ­committed an aggravated offence which will ensure a higher than normal tariff.

The fact that women are absent from the list of categories this legislation is allegedly designed to protect is, says the government, only because there will be a separate crime of misogyny at some future, unspecified date.

As a woman, I’m more than a mite weary that failing to be in a minority of the population has only ensured lifelong discrimination.

When Helena Kennedy published her report on everyday misogyny, lots of ­perfectly decent men pronounced ­themselves surprised. Shocked even.

Try listening to your wives, girlfriends and sisters, chaps. It’s a whole other world.

The unpalatable fact is that our own government has a somewhat patchy ­record when drafting legislation. It’s a powerful argument in my book for ­having an independent senate-style chamber charged with looking at all the small print before it goes before parliament.

The benighted House of Lords might argue that is what it does when intended laws – like the Rwandan variety – are sent upstairs to be examined. The very ­obvious flaw in that argument is that while they can delay legislation, they are legally obliged to give way to the ­Commons at the end of the day.

THE body I envisage for Scotland would be drawn from all walks of life with the core qualities sought being ­sufficient experience and independence of mind. Elected, but not beholden to any political party.

If you doubt that we need such a body, just look at some of the attempts which failed to deliver their core ambition. The drive to outlaw sectarianism fell at ­ several hurdles.

It was instructive to see the difference at the women’s Euros that England won, and the previous men’s event. The former had a joyous atmosphere because the ­audience were mainly families having an outing. The latter led to mindless rioting.

On another front, had the Scottish ­Government lent an ear to genuine ­concerns, it might have avoided the ­bourach of the gender reform saga.

Even some of its own MSPs could spot the danger in letting folk self-identify as a different gender after being charged with a violent offence. I think they call it ­common sense.

Personally, I had less difficulty with the attempt to have children have a named person in their corner. I can see why some people felt it interfered with ­parental rights.

However, having been on a panel ­listening to evidence from young ­people during a process re-examining the ­Kilbrandon Report, it became clear that for some kids the parents were the problem and the abusers.

One young girl, taken into foster care for her own protection, was then abused by the foster carer. She, and many others, needed an adult they could trust. One with no familial connection.

A case of a finely balanced argument, and one where a second chamber might have found a formula of words which was acceptable to both camps.

The UK Government, however, has ­become a clear and present danger both to free speech and the right of protest. It’s not that long ago that counter-­terrorism sources felt able to name Extinction Rebellion as a source to be curbed.

Evidently, being concerned about the entire planet going up in smoke (or ­flooded out) is small beer compared with folk in their cars being held up on the way to work.

It’s the same brand of intolerance now on regular display in the Commons as Tory MPs pronounce themselves fed up with the streets being full of ­protesters demanding a ceasefire in the Middle East war.

I suggest they spend a week or two ­under bombardment in Gaza in the hope they might gain a smidgin of ­perspective. Instead of popping out to the ­supermarket and filling a trolley, contemplate weeks and months with no food for sale.

Ask themselves how they might react if their only available hospital were to be bombed.

I wish I believed that if and when the guard is finally changed at Westminster, all that illiberalism will be given the boot too. Except that Labour appear to have ­endorsed the “need” to root out extremism. Whatever that is.