A mischief-making tweeter last week asked whether a CEO caught in breach of lockdown restrictions would be given the same second chance that Boris Johnson seemingly has been given by his party.
The answer came yesterday – when Antonio Horta-Osorio stepped down as Chair of Credit Suisse after two ill-advised quarantine breakouts. Whatever the ins and outs, it’s a sign of a growing disconnect between the standards expected in politics and business (even at scandal factory The standards to which CEOs are now held, rightly or wrongly, often seem to outstrip that of our politicians.
An allegation of a ‘toxic work culture’ can be career-ending – in Westminster, being seen as a difficult boss is occasionally held up as a badge of honour. There have been many lurid descriptions of life in SW1 recently and many of them are overblown. One former adviser’s description of Number 10 as an office laden down with boozy mini-fridges is one such example. Yes, people are known to occasionally have a drink. But that’s because they’re working during drinking hours, not drinking during working hours.
But nonetheless, politics is a funny business. It has become stranger still under this administration. For all their faults, Prime Ministers Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron acknowledged the value of having Cabinet members willing to question policy; Theresa May seemed only to have people who questioned her. This Prime Minister does not.
The Cabinet is largely made up of loyalists, some of whom could not honestly say they would have their jobs under a different Prime Minister. A Cabinet of nodding yes-men is as dangerous in politics as it is in business. It is difficult to imagine the Prime Minister taking the Horta-Osorio route, no matter the conclusions of the famed Sue Gray review. But what he does need is a full reset of his top team – and not just civil servants. Good government comes from good governance.