Rishi Sunak may not have lots of time on his hands, but one book is perhaps worth reading.
In his recent tome Stupid Bankers, Irish author Paul Kilduff makes the case that sometimes – just sometimes – it really can be one individual that changes the course of financial history. Nick Leeson, for instance, crashed Barings pretty much on his tod. Sir Fred Goodwin’s ego inflated the Royal Bank of Scotland to levels it could never sustain. But he also makes the point that your garden variety corporate cock-up usually has several parents.
There is a similar trend in history to ascribe extraordinary events to one individual – the so-called great man theory. This gives Churchill the sole credit for winning the Battle of Britain, or Reagan the prize for ending the Cold War, when one could make a credible case that Polish airmen and ordinary east Germans had a rather significant hand, too.
In reality, in both politics and business, is that great efforts are usually the work of several and fronted by one. It is now Rishi Sunak who will either reap the rewards of being in charge when things turn for the better, or take the punishment beating for collective failure.
As he enters Number 10 this week, hopefully with a tad more dynamism than he displayed in his robotic statement yesterday, he will need to rapidly assemble a cabinet of all the talents – ditching his predecessor’s, and her predecessor’s, habit of picking only those with supine loyalty for the top job. That should include Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor.
More broadly, this is the chance for the PM to bring the business community back into politics. Boris Johnson did his best to alienate and frustrate the UK’s business leaders. Liz Truss may have made a better stab of it had she not contrived alongside her first Chancellor to turn the markets into a particularly distressing rollercoaster.
But Rishi Sunak must know that many of Britain’s problems cannot be solved without the private sector’s financial clout. Dishy Rishi has a lot on his plate – it might be an idea to share the responsibility of getting through it all.