In amongst the “It’s all a Remainer plot” and “They all thought it was a work function” excuses being trotted out by those desperate to keep Boris Johnson in Number 10, we also have the old “He just needs better people around him” chestnut making the rounds. Yes, this is the notion that if only Johnson had a better team in Number 10, he’d be an amazing prime minister. Of course he would, yeah, sure thing.
Beyond the mere ridiculousness of the premise here, namely that someone who is supposed to be politically leading the country would somehow get magically better at this job for which he is evidently unfit if only his coterie of advisors was of a better standard, there is an additional problem. Even if this theory were somehow true, I don’t think Johnson could get better advisors. As in, I don’t think better people would or could work in Number 10, or at least, they wouldn’t without massive caveats Johnson wouldn’t or couldn’t provide, or they would be going into the job with ulterior motives that would further rot Johnson’s premiership from the inside.
I think there are three basic types of people Johnson could in theory get to work for him in Number 10 – and here’s why all of them are basically no goers.
- A genuinely competent person from outside of the Conservative party
There are two massive problems with this idea, as much as it remains the best avenue theoretically available. One is that this government has alienated everyone outside the Conservative party to such a degree, it’s genuinely difficult to imagine such a person existing who would take the job. Two, the Tories are in full on batshit crazy mode, so the idea that they would countenance someone so not of their ilk they aren’t even Conservatives to advise Johnson doesn’t seem realistic. But even if these two massive limitations could be overcome, there are still huge obstacles to this possibility working.
Anyone who would be good enough to even be considered for any role in Number 10 would want assurances that Johnson wouldn’t be able to give. Are there any more stories about parties looking to pop out and hurt us? Johnson wouldn’t be able to promise such a thing wasn’t possible. Will the prime minister act in a more prime ministerial way? Even if Johnson was willing to do this, which I doubt he would, would anyone who fits the description of “genuinely competent person from outside the Conservative party” believe him?
I just don’t see how this option would work, as in, I cannot think of anyone in Britain who fits the job description and yet would take a job at Number 10 under this prime minister and these circumstances. And I stress before going on, this is still the best option available by miles and miles.
2. Hire a generic Tory
This would be someone within the ranks, probably fairly young, who would jump at the chance to work in Number 10 for a Conservative prime minister. Someone with no strings attached and who would give no thought to future career prospects. This would come with several advantages. One is that this person would probably be loyal, so you could trust them. Two, they wouldn’t make any demands on the PM, meaning he wouldn’t have to step outside his comfort zone.
The problem is, if the point of this exercise is to “Get better people around the prime minister to save the premiership”, then this fails at all the first hurdles. This expressly isn’t someone better by definition. Also, if the idea is to shake up Johnson and get him to do things differently, then someone who is just overjoyed to be in Downing Street isn’t going to do that. It will simply be business as usual, and given how business is going, that’s not good. The point is, this should be a non-starter; if the idea is to get better advisors around the PM, then this isn’t a solution at all.
3. Get someone from the top ranks of the Conservative party in to fix things
This option is probably the one Number 10 is most seriously considering, and on paper it might look like the best answer, but it comes laden with massive problems. No one who is a rising star in the party will want to hitch their wagon to this failing government – at least, unless they are simultaneously making sure that they have a big in with whomever is going to be the next Tory leader. And there is one easy, sure-fire way of doing that, which is by acting as a mole inside Downing Street. So, this person would leak the hell out of everything they came across of interest while on the inside, to whomever they are banking on to be the next leader or, even smarter, to everyone they think might have a shot at being the next leader.
This would sink Johnson’s premiership even faster than it is already going down. It’s a recipe for disaster.
As you can see, the “He needs better people” theory doesn’t work, because even if Johnson could magically transform into someone competent – which, to stress again, he cannot – there is no one who would take the job of being one of these magical new advisors who isn’t either useless or scheming. Sorry, Tories, there is no realistic solution to the Boris conundrum other than the very obvious one, the one staring you in the face. Either bring him down soon or let the electorate do it in just over two years time. Those are the only choices you have left.