I have always been intrigued by the baffling business of politics. A political element creeps into most of my serious writing. The endless ups and downs of political fortunes, the seeming impossibility of ever pleasing everybody (or even the majority), and the vast emotional void between left and right philosophies.

Of course, it's a hopeless profession. Why anyone would wish to stand for Parliament in the first place is a mystery. To get elected you must promise your voters that you will solve all their problems and create Nirvana for them. Then when you are voted in, they expect you to deliver, which of course you can't do, so they all turn against you and denounce you as a liar and a scoundrel and blame you for everything from their unhappy marriages to their cat's tapeworm.

Contrary to prevailing opinion most politicians are fairly intelligent and hardworking individuals. They must be to obtain selection in the first place. I have met a number over the years, and have always been impressed by their grasp of the problems facing society (even though they may not agree on how to deal with them), by their impressive memories (not much hope for them if they don't remember the last month's inflation figures or the name of your local mayor's wife), and by their willingness to live in unlovely constituencies and keep ungodly hours (no wonder they sometimes get pissed or get caught out in affairs with parliamentary secretaries). Of course, there are the occasional bounders and power-seeking egotists, but on the whole, most MPs are decent people hoping to instigate some small improvement to society, and with luck maybe even the occasional large impact. The majority could be earning three times their parliamentary salaries out in civvy street.

But whatever they do there will always be supporters and detractors. Looking back over the past century of British politics, the two names which stand out are Churchill and Thatcher. Both were fiercely reviled by many of their fellow politicians and by much of the public, yet they will both go down in the history books as having had huge influences on the nation's fortunes - Churchill by winning the war, and Thatcher by saving the country from the economic and constitutional quagmire that the Wilson, Heath and Callaghan administrations had brought about.

It is puzzling that the voting public can rarely agree about things. I have always maintained that this is down to individual temperament, and because most think with their hearts, not with their heads. They go on their emotional reactions to a politician's personality rather than on a rational assessment of his/her abilities, or their party's policies. The pessimistic left sees all the misery and inequality in the world and demands that governments do something about it. The optimistic right instinctively believes in individuality and the entrepreneurial spirit and wants as little interference from above as possible. As always, the best path is somewhere down the middle, but the partisan nature of politics usually drives the parties to take extreme positions.

The greatest example of this is America, where half the nation backs the potential fascist despot Donald Trump, however much he is proven to be hugely unsuited for leadership, and the other half Joe Biden, who appears to be a thoroughly decent man, but long past his prime. Back in the UK, Boris Johnson seems to be proving an amalgam of all the qualities. Charismatic but untrustworthy. Visionary but utterly disorganised. Intelligent but scatterbrained. Sympathetic but egotistical. And as such he has also polarised opinion in the way that his forerunners did. Ultimately it too will be his faults that will bring him down, because we all expect our politicians to be gods.

The divisive nature of politics has been hugely intensified in the last decade by the extraordinary proliferation of social media. Now any unthinking idiot with an axe to grind, any troll with a conspiracy theory to spread, any malign dictator with a Machiavellian agenda to promote, can spread their distorted message far and wide at the click of a mouse. At the domestic level, all the statistics show that the level of unhappiness, and therefore, dissatisfaction amongst young people has been hugely escalated by their media addiction. And on the international scene, we know that the scope for interference in the political processes of foreign nations by such as Russia and China is also increasing dangerously. It is quite likely that Russia's persistent covert interference in America's 2016 election may have had some influence in achieving Trump's victory.

Dare I say it, but most voters are too ill-equipped or too uninterested to want to delve far into the immensely complex issues that dominate politics today, whether these are matters of economics, sociology, or international affairs. They are in effect unqualified to vote. As Churchill himself was famously supposed to have said, 'The best argument against democracy is five minutes conversation with the average voter'. But then he also said, 'Democracy is the worst form of government - except for all the others.' And when you look at the appalling regimes in Russia and China and all the other tyrannies across the planet and down the ages, you have to agree.

One of the problems of the Western parliamentary system is its short-term nature. The four or five-year parliamentary term compels governments to start thinking about the next election almost as soon as they take office after the last one. Five years is little time for fundamental reforms to take effect, so governments rarely take the risk. They just tinker around the edges and hope that this will prove their credentials whilst having some small effect on the problem. I have often thought that we should have ten-year terms, which would encourage them to be far bolder in their policy making. A disastrous administration could always be booted out on a motion of no-confidence, but at least they could not blame lack of time for their failings.

Dictatorships do not have that problem. Theirs is the opposite, and far more insidious flaw, that 'absolute power corrupts absolutely.' I will end with a quotation that nicely sums up the essence of parliamentary confrontation:

MP to Benjamin Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on the gallows, or of some unspeakable disease."

Disraeli to MP: "That depends, Sir, whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."