The real problem with Boris Johnson's administration is Boris Johnson
Commentators must dispose of the first taboo and accept that the problem in Downing Street is Johnson. Johnson is the problem.
This week’s papers have been full of articles attempting to diagnose the problem with Boris Johnson’s administration.
Diagnoses have included:
The lack of experienced political operators in Number 10
The lack of people willing to speak up to him in the Cabinet.
Some of his colleagues have even suggested that a simple holiday will solve the problems in Downing Street, as if the prime minister hadn’t had enough of those already this year.
But what all of these diagnoses miss is the most obvious cause of Downing Street’s problems: Johnson himself.
The fish, as they say, rots from the head down. If Downing Street is dysfunctional it is because it has a dysfunctional leader. If the policies aren’t working, it is because the man in charge of devising them isn’t working. If the Cabinet is weak, it is because the person who has appointed them is weak.
In order to diagnose the real cause of the government’s troubles, commentators must dispose of the first taboo and accept that the problem in Downing Street is Johnson. Johnson is the problem.
The poor quality of the Johnson administration is not a bug, but a feature. No amount of new deputies, or policy chiefs, or chief whips will make any real difference as long as the current prime minister remains in place.
Johnson’s failings, which were so visibly expressed in his CBI speech last week, are not some sort aberration that can be solved by a long weekend away in Chequers. They are who he is and has always been.
As Barack Obama once famously said: “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig.”
The problem is Johnson. Johnson is the problem.
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