I’ve been covering politics ever since the last grim days of Jim Callaghan’s Labour Government at the end of the seventies. It was a dreadful time – the so-called ‘winter of discontent’ was in full swing, the government was divided and directionless and was only put out of its misery by Margaret Thatcher’s sweeping victory in 1979.

I remember too the end of the Thatcher era when her ministerial colleagues and backbenchers coolly plunged their knives deep into the heart of the woman they had once idolised.

And I also recall Gordon Brown’s messy demise when his brief reign as Prime Minister ended in his ignominious departure from Downing Street.

But at none of these times did I look at a government in such disarray as we see today.

To remind you of the events of the last seven days

lSecretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon) forced to resign

lSecretary of State for International Development (Priti Patel) forced to resign

lFirst Secretary of State (Damien Green) under investigation for sexual harassment

lForeign Secretary (Boris Johnson) making a false statement which threatens to extend the prison sentence of a British citizen held in Iran

For legal and other reasons, I will pass over the alleged misdemeanours of Messrs Fallon and Green; but those of Mr Johnson and Ms Patel bear further examination.

Both were accused of misleading the public and/or the Prime Minister. Misleading is now a polite word for lying; and in neither case were they lying about trivial matters.

In the foreign secretary’s case he spoke casually, and incorrectly, about why Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran – visiting her family, she, her family, her employers and (until now) the British Government said, spying claimed the Iranians.

And then along comes Mr Johnson and tells a parliamentary committee that she was there training journalists. Unsurprisingly the Iranians leapt on this to claim that she was a spy after all.

The Foreign Secretary then had the opportunity of correcting and apologising for his mistake when he answered questions in parliament this week – did he? Did he heck; true to form he ‘clarified’ his remarks, in other words he bumbled and blustered and blamed the Iranians for ‘misunderstanding’.

Ms Patel’s case is, if anything, even more serious.

She undertook a series of high level meetings in Israel, including with the Israeli Prime Minister and didn’t’ think to inform anyone in the British Government; she also visited the Golan Heights, that part of Syria occupied by the Israelis since 1967 and not recognised by the British Government. To compound her felony, she initially lied to Mrs May about her trip and then, when found out, spoke not of apology but also about ‘clarifying’ her Israeli activities.

In normal times Mrs May would have sacked all the recalcitrant ministers. But these are not normal times – she is a weakened leader and dare not risk sending to the backbenches more potential enemies than absolutely necessary.

All this might be little more than a spot of fun for bored political journalists, but this is serious, because we are facing a moment of national destiny, unlike anything that we’ve faced since the end of the War. It’s serious because of Brexit - which is not some vague foreign affairs issue that won’t have any direct impact on the people of Sussex; it will and big time.

The sort of deal that David Davis might manage to negotiate at Brussels will determine the UK’s economic and political future for many years to come. If we aren’t able to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU 27 we will find ourselves living in a very frosty world.

Trade deals take not months but years to negotiate. Canada finally got a deal with the EU after seven years of negotiations and anyone who thinks that Donald Trump’s America is going to be welcoming British exports with open arms needs to think again.

There were two straws that recently blew in the wind from across the Atlantic that have made that abundantly clear.

Recently Boeing persuaded the US Government to impose a 300% tariff on planes being partially constructed in Belfast on the grounds that they had received unfair government subsidy (in this case from Canada). And then just this week, the US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross made it clear that any post-Brexit trade deal would involve the UK accepting US standards across a wide range of goods, including the acceptance of chlorinated chickens and GM crops.

So given the weakness of the government, unstable and unstrong might be one way of putting it, how can the hapless Mr Davies be expected to come away from the latest round of negotiations with any sort of result?

December was meant to be the month when the serious trade negotiations between the UK and the EU got underway – in the current climate I wouldn’t put my pounds or euros on it. The negotiations are in trouble, and that means we all are.

Ivor Gaber is Professor of Political Journalism at the University of Sussex and is a former political correspondent at Westminster.