The critics who have feasted loudly on scorn since Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize make the point that this is not an encouragement award. The Peace Prize should mark substantial, actual achievement in the cause of peace. On any measure it is hard to see how Obama, whatever his promise, whatever the glimmering vision laid out in his magisterial rhetoric, is yet to match the prospect with the fact.

His greatest achievement to date is to be elected, with all that that implied and represented. On every other key issue that besets his administration and the planet, he is a work in progress. He hasn’t dropped the ball, but neither has he kicked a goal, not in war, nor climate change nor health care. It could be that in accepting this premature award he has marked a notable first in the course of his presidency: the first great mistake.