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This isn’t about politics but about the law, as offered up by Michael Connelly in The Lincoln Lawyer, where the hero worries about walking the line between being a criminal attorney and a criminal: ‘Sometimes Iā€™m not sure which side of the bars I am on.’

Senior apparatchiks everywhere would recognise the dilemma. And they’d understand the Lincoln Lawyer’s lament that the scariest client a lawyer will ever have is one who is actually innocent. Then all the usual deals and compromises and plea bargains won’t suffice: only one verdict will do.

For today’s apparatchiks, the equivalent line would be that the scariest thing they can confront is a populace that no longer accepts the workings of the system as it is. The whole purpose of the apparatchik is to service the system. But what if that purpose comes up against passions and principles that will not bend the knee nor be bent by the old norms? Suddenly, the usual stuff ā€“ negotiation, amelioration, manipulation, insider knowledge and constant compromises ā€“ may not deliver the deal that everyone can live with.

And what use is the apparatchik who no longer understands how the machine really works?