Our political class is full of time-servers. That's the system. But it creates an appalling time lag in talent when circumstances change. Our current "top table" appears temperamentally unsuited to change, and few have experience of success in the real world.
So what can Britain expect in her hour of need? The answer is a Conservative government at the next election. After a week spent in London, it's clear Peter Hain is not the only doubter about Gordon Brown's leadership. The English public evidently doesn't think anyone has a workable strategy for the credit crunch – so they'll settle for a change of faces instead. It's not much of a prospect for policy-focused Lefties.
"It's all right for you in Scotland – you can vote SNP and get out of it all," and, "If only the Lib Dems had elected Vince Cable – but now there's no alternative." Such gloomy remarks were commonplace.
Later, as a group of my old university chums sat in silence with empty wine glasses contemplating their fate – learning to love the Tories and read the Daily Mail – there was no fire in their bellies. No enthusiasm for tomorrow. No real belief that the Tory top team has vision – just electable manners and the near mystical power of not being Labour.
So, we dropped policy debate and pored over people instead. At 2am, the following were selected for the government of unity Britain so badly needs. Naturally, we seized the opportunity to become a republic.
President: David Attenborough. His nine Life on Earth series, broadcast over 50 years, form the most comprehensive survey of all terrestrial life.
Prime Minister: Helen Mirren. A welcome departure from the unsuccessful "oligarch" style of leadership, Mirren is a team player with a wild streak, staying power, style, common sense… and an Oscar.
Chancellor and Deputy PM: Vince Cable. Affable but outspoken, direct and colourful, trustworthy and responsible for lifting Lib Dem poll ratings off the floor.
Home Secretary: Clive Stafford Smith. The determination of this lawyer who has represented Death Row prisoners in the United States for 20 years without (much) pay or thanks helped close Guantanamo Bay. A radical but law-abiding pair of hands to stop the slide into a suspicious, surveillance society.
Foreign Secretary: Shirley Williams. Wise woman, world citizen, baggage-free, well travelled, widely read, open-minded, fun.
Environment: Nicholas Stern and Stelios Haji-Ioannou jobshare. We'd copy Barack Obama by putting an eco-boffin in charge but shackle him to an unashamed populist who has delivered more (environment-destroying) change than anyone else in Britain. Could the former World Bank chief and Mr Easy-everything get along? If they can't, the world is doomed.
Transport: Ken Livingstone. His former advisers are under investigation. But Red Ken pushed through the Oyster card, congestion charging and bendy buses to champion public transport. There's life in the old Trot yet.
Housing and Communities: Maggie Fyffe (Eigg). We would recall the current tranche of Cabinet Scots and send one back down south – and she's from Hull. Maggie would create living communities rather than sterile, empty estates and perhaps the Small Isles would finally get the broadband, ferry and rail services they deserve.
Defence: Max Hastings. This distinguished war correspondent represents an important strand of progressive military thinking. He wants the government to dump Trident. And his position on Israel echoes majority public opinion: "The only plausible result of their government's behaviour is a terrible loneliness in the world."
Attorney-general: Harriet Wistrich. The solicitor for the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian electrician shot dead by police at a Tube station, this feminist and independent film maker would be a breath of fresh air.
Health and Benefits: Jon Cruddas. The Labour deputy leadership candidate who opposes more NHS privatisation. A big portfolio but one focused on low-income communities because they also have the worst health outcomes.
Food and Agriculture: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Jamie gets the publicity, but the unkempt chef at River Cottage is a real enthusiast for seasonal food and shifted consumer behaviour over battery chickens.
Education: Will Hutton. Work Foundation vice-chairman, economist, author and a man who wakes at 4am filled with panic about the possible dimensions of the current recession. Schools need someone who cares about the future and relishes innovation.
Sport: Archbishop John Sentamu. Well, what's not to like?
Culture: Rolf Harris. It was 1am by this stage.
Chief Whip: Max Clifford, because he'll get the job done.
Titter ye not. Obama became electable only after a string of award-winning films depicting capable black presidents. In Britain, The Thick of It, In the Loop and Yes Minister have all depicted hopeless but likeable losers instead. The only positive role model is Hugh Grant's Love Actually leader, so it's no surprise that lookalike David Cameron is apparently a dead cert for the top job. Coincidence perhaps, or life imitating art.
So argue, guffaw, dismiss or improve on this fantasy team – there's an embarrassment of talent in these islands. An inconvenient truth our political system can only ignore.