Jeremy Warner: Sir Alan Sugar – you're hired!


Outlook: It seems unlikely that Sir Alan Sugar would be hiring Gordon Brown as his apprentice were the Prime Minister to appear on his TV show. Lacking in people skills, sulky, non-team player, makes enemies easily, and incapable of controlling a budget, Mr Brown would have been fired in the first episode.

Picture the scene. Sir Alan; "I send you down the market, and you come back with a bill for £146bn. What the blinkin' 'ell is that about? My three-year-old daughter could have done better." Brown; "Well Sir Alan, there is a recession which we need to spend our way out of, and there is this man to my right called Tony who wouldn't listen and spent a lot of our money in Iraq...." Sugar: "Yeah, yeah, I know all that..." And so on.

Mr Brown would indeed have made a useless apprentice. But by the same token, is Sir Alan up to the job of Enterprise Tsar? Sir Alan is a long-standing chum of Mr Brown. By agreeing to join the sinking ship, this tough-talking ratings hit allows the PM to bask in his reflected glory as a media star. The quid pro quo is that Sir Alan gets a peerage, which is not bad for what may turn out to be no more than a few months work.

By most accounts, Sir Alan's recent track record in business hasn't been exactly brilliant. After Amstrad, he went into property. It seems unlikely that this will any longer be worth a great deal once the debt has been netted off. But there's a lot more to Sir Alan than boardroom bluster. With his Amstrad PC, Sir Alan genuinely revolutionised consumer electronics in Britain, making the desktop computer price-accessible to the mass market for the first time. That makes Sir Alan a business visionary. Mind you, his touch isn't always as good as his publicity makes out. The Amstrad e-mailer was a predictable flop, and back in February 2005, Sir Alan had this prescient prediction to make about the future of the iPod. "Next Christmas, the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput." Brilliant.

As for Mr Brown, this is truly desperate stuff. Whatever next? Susan Boyle for Home Secretary?

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