What makes a politician happy? Aside from winning elections, of course.
Well, the small fry mostly take delight in securing minor internal party gains. Ousting Fred from the branch chair. Dissing Wilma at the delegates meeting.
The bigger fish, those in government, crave more. They want either to stiff their (external) opponents or to win popular acclaim for their actions.
Today at Holyrood, the Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon neared Nirvana.
She overturned a decision by her predecessor Andy Kerr, infuriating him in the process. And she was cheered from the public gallery in so doing.
The decision? To maintain Accident and Emergency services at Ayr and Monklands hospitals in line with the SNP’s election pledges.
We can dispense fairly swiftly with Joy Number One. New governments frequently overturn decisions taken by their opponents. There would be little point in changing governments if they didn’t.
Let’s look more closely at Joy Number Two: the public reception.
Ms Sturgeon was cheered by hospital campaigners in the gallery - and no doubt will never have to buy her own drinks again in Ayr or Airdrie. But, in the by-going, she evinced a theory of governance which may prove intriguing.
She said: "Public opinion cannot and should not override genuine concerns about the safety of services. But neither can public opinion be ignored. Health Boards and responsible government must balance local views and circumstances with wider considerations of clinical quality, sustainability, safety, and value for money."
At one level, unexceptionable. The minister was merely saying that, all being equal, you should do nice things to people rather than rotten ones. But link this with her further announcement of an independent scrutiny panel to review the reshaped hospital plans in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire.
Two points occur. Firstly, I rather agree with Ross Finnie of the LibDems who queried, ever so gently, what the scrutiny panel will now do, given that the minister has already ruled that A&E will continue at Ayr and Monklands.
Secondly, it is envisaged that this scrutiny panel mechanism will be routinely used in future. To what end? To enforce public opinion? Or to shape it, to mould it to accept the inevitable?
First principles. The people are never wrong. If only the politicians would listen and act accordingly. But what do the people want, given a choice? Do they want smaller, community units - or larger hospitals with greater certainty of 24-hour expertise?
The answer? We want big, expert hospitals. And we’d like one at the end of the street, please.
You see, I do not believe it is about “consultation”. I do not believe the good folk of Ayr and Monklands would have changed their minds one whit, regardless of how extensive the consultation had been. I do not believe an independent scrutiny panel would have made any difference whatsoever.
Rightly or wrongly - they firmly believe rightly - they wanted their A&E units kept open. They cheer politicians who say yes to that. They hiss those who say no. End of story.
Self-evidently, Scotland cannot station a hospital the size of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary at the end of every street. Particularly given the pressures on staffing and sustaining expertise, Scotland has to choose. That means ultimately that elected MSPs, Ministers, have to choose.
This was a confident, assured performance from Nicola Sturgeon. She had prepared well - and was ready for her critics. She has chosen to retain A&E at Monklands and Ayr.
It will be fascinating to watch the reception if and when she follows her principles and takes a decision contrary to local opinion because of the “wider considerations” noted above.