Posts Tagged ‘prime minister’

Many have said, with a great deal of justification, that while Boris Johnson desperately wanted to be Prime Minister, and desperately wanted to have been Prime Minister, he gave perilously, dangerously, little thought in advance to actually being Prime Minister.

And, to the largest possible extent, I agree with them.

Because, notwithstanding Brexit, and covid, and the latest corruption allegations hitting his party and government, he doesn’t appear at any time to have enjoyed being Prime Minister.

Now, before you jump all over me on this, I appreciate and agree that it’s a serious job, or ought to be, and should be occupied by serious (in both senses of the word) people. And Boris Johnson is not a serious person in any sense of the word.

But I was Financial Director (US: Chief Financial Officer) of a tv company. It – though on a much smaller scale – was a serious job. And while I can’t say that I enjoyed every moment of the time I was FD, I loved doing the job, and loved the mechanics of it, the daily grind of it, and most if not all of the multiple bits of the role.

Again, yes, there were bits I loathed, a very few of the obligations and responsibilities that came along with the rights it gave me. But I knew what they were, going in. I’d worked for a very good FD beforehand and when he left and I was offered the role as his successor by the Chief Exec, I grabbed it with both hands, very aware that I was responsible for the financial stability and security of a multmillion pound company, and equally responsible for the financial security (insofar as it fell within my purview) of the 50 or so employees.

And there were bits – most of the job, to be honest – that I actively enjoyed; the feeling of actually running the company with the Chief Exec and the other directors; the authority that came with the job; the running of my department, training people up, making – in the smaller scale – Big Decisions. And then the satisfaction of them coming to fruition, or the learning experience when I’d made the wrong judgement call, and knew not to make that call again.

But just now I was trying to remember the last time a British politician seemed to be actually enjoying the job they had.

Leaving aside those who seem to revel purely in the power and prestige, but not the actual job itself (Jacob Rees-Mogg – the current Leader of the House of Commons, and John McDonnell, previously Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, both spring to mind)…

…I’m struggling to think of any front line politicians who even seemed to be enjoying the job.

That’s quite apart from those who seemed to be doing the job they were, after all, paid to do and should have regarded as one hell of an honour to be doing.

Talking of that latter, I’ve on occasion mentioned that whatever my thoughts on David Cameron (and they’re often scathing, to put it mildly) the final words of his resignation statement as Prime Minister, was one of the few times I believed he was being completely and totally honest.

Specifically, the bit when he said the words: I love this country and I feel honoured to have served it.

Theresa May’s resignation statement, similarly, when she talked about the ‘country I love’.

I’m not saying that anything else they said was honest, nor that the speeches weren’t very deliberately political and self-serving. But at least they treated the job with appropriate respect and seriousness.

And I truly believe they did regard it as the pinnacle of their political careers, and were honoured to do the job. Moreover, despite my views that neither of them actually did a good job as Prime Minister, Cameron at least acted in a way you could believe he was Prime Minister. May occasionally did, as well. But Cameron was the last PM who acted like he knew he was PM.

But with rare exceptions, neither Cameron or May seemed to honestly and genuinely enjoy any part of being Prime Minister.

Brown before them? Yes, again, I never doubted that he knew the responsibilities that came with the job, but until him, I’d never experienced a Prime Minister who so obviously loathed being Prime Minister. It’s possible, of course, that he was the subject of the curse of ‘be careful what you wish for’ and also that had he not followed Blair’s decade in Number Ten, consummate media performer that he was, that Brown would have enjoyed it more.

I doubt it, to be honest.

But ok. Tony Blair. Yes, Blair. He was the last PM in my experience who actually, genuinely, enojyed being Prime Minister, and fully appreciated the rights and obligations that went along with it. (I don’t, by the way, think he had any real clue of them before he got the job; hardly anyone in Labour front line politics had even been a minister 18 years previously, the last time Labour were in government.)

Again, this is entirely separate to the Blair governments’ policies, good and bad, while he was in the job. He enjoyed doing the job, possibly despite the actions he took, but more likely as part of them.

And John Major, for all that his premiership ended mired in sleaze and weakness, I think that for much of his term, he enjoyed being PM, and again, fully appreciated the rights and responsibilities as well.

Before Major? Well, there was Margaret Thatcher who absolutely fucking loved being Prime Minister, probably the first to have absolutely fucking loved it since Wilson, and possibly the person who’s most loved being PM of any Prime Minister in my lifetime.

OK, so that’s PM. Other cabinet roles? Well, the obvious example is Gordon Brown as Chancellor. THE exemplar of someone who loved doing the job. No one else comes close. Ok, if you push me, I’ll grant that possibly Ken Clarke as well. But I wouldn’t bet money on it.

Foreign Secretary? Can’t think of anyone who truly enjoyed doing the job. Not a one of them. Some might suggest Boris Johnson, but if so it was the bliss of ignorance in his case, as he fucked up so royally and never seemed to care.

Leader of the Opposition? The only one that springs to mind is David Cameron, who grew into the role. None of the recent Labour leaders have enjoyed being Leader of the Opposition; they’ve neither enjoyed it nor have even pretended to. Corbyn loathed the job, very obviously, as did Michael Howard. And Iain Duncan Smith seemed to have to summon up what reserves he had merely to stand up for most of his time in the job. Much as, to be honest, Keir Starmer is starting to look like he’s doing.

Small digression before I leave this piece, in the absence of any real conclusion, any lesson. (I wish I had one or either but I don’t beyond ‘it’d be nice if we had someone competent, honest, moral and hardworking in the jobs of Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. Yes, I know it would be a novelty but I think it should be tried….)

One question I wish would be asked of every politician running for office on a reforming agenda/platform… which., let’s face it, is all of them: what’s your end game? Seriously, if every one of your policies is put into place, and all of them work, what will [education/environment/the tax structure] look like when no more reform is required?

Because I don’t think any front line politician would be able to honestly, intelligently, answer.


See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.

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This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.