There are Boris Johnsons in every newspaper office. The posher the paper, the more extravagant their personalities. Swanning about in features – they could never handle hard news.
Easy to track down to the nearest wine bar, loud and public school, flashing their cash (borrowed), always late with their copy. Trailed by a bevy of exotic women with three names, not great looking but invariably easy with their charms. The Chablis spotted Bojos. Loved by everyone. Totally chaotic.
The last thing on earth you would do is give them any kind of authority over people. Anything that required organisation like working on the newsdesk. Organising a schedule, getting the paper out. These are people who can’t do their expenses on time, thousands behind in advances.
And yet. The prime example of buffoonery – the Prime Minister of the country. No wonder this government lurches from crisis to disaster. Headless, rudderless, clueless. Flattening the sombrero – Bojo won’t need that on his Scottish glamping hols. Holding onto the tent pegs more like.
It all becomes clear. Gove – apparently a former journalist – is at best a number 4 on the newsdesk. The guy who gets to the office early to make up for his lack of talent. More organised than Bojo, but none of the charm. You shudder when he is standing as number 1 on a Sunday. His chance to shine on the proper journalists’ day off. Everyone terrified he will drop it big time.
No wonder Cummings has so much power. He is the decision maker without portfolio because the rest of them are caught in the headlights. He does the job that Johnson should be doing but is clearly incapable. But that can’t work – it isn’t working. Johnson hiding behind his SPAD, reacting to events, not leading them, then getting it disastrously wrong when they try catch-up. Exam results being just the latest farce.
The civil servants – many of whom are first rate born organisers – must be ending themselves. They are too professional to let the whole thing collapse. But they are now all fielding at long stop to keep the score of self-inflicted disasters to manageable levels.
Is it that the government is simply useless and the pandemic has exposed them in a merciless way never seen in “peace time”. Many believe that’s the case. There are many who think that the standard of MPs has to be much higher, the threshold for entry set at higher levels to attract the top brains.
This is a modern professional world which needs leaders of experience and dynamism to lead. Not speech makers with rallying cries and nothing to back them up.
We have 650 MPs, many of them lobby fodder. The “better” ones are sitting as the most talent-free cabinet many can remember. An MP’s basic pay is £81,000. That salary should be doubled and the number of MPs halved.
That way we attract MPs of stature and experience. Then we wouldn’t have a fireplace salesman as Education Secretary. And a feature writer as PM.
Boris may find the midges in Scotland this week a pleasant relief from the sharks waiting for his return.
Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, and a Director of Trinity Mirror publications. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. Based in Scotland, he is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives, and a media adviser.