Letting people get away with anything. Is this the fine art of leadership, David Cameron-style?

The Prime Minister’s treatment of Maria Miller shows he is not exactly Alexander the Great
  • @mrmarksteel

Now that Maria Miller’s resigned, it’s a concern that the cabinet is under-represented by greedy shysters. Some people have suggested that the Prime Minister should create an all-greedy shyster shortlist, to ensure the number in the cabinet reaches an acceptable level, because some statistics show the figure is less than one hundred per cent, which shows there’s still much work to be done.

But in general the Government’s behaviour around this issue has displayed a remarkable change in their policies. For example, until last week, if you were claiming public money for a bedroom you weren’t using at all times, you had to move to a smaller place. Now they’ve gone the other way and said it’s fine to claim for a whole extra house.

So if you’ve been told to move house because of claiming for a spare bedroom, the answer is to move everyone into the bedroom and claim for the spare house instead, then you should be all right.

The official reason Maria Miller has given for resigning is she “became a distraction”. This suggests the problem wasn’t with her false claims for a house, but that she kept bringing a puppy into work. Or maybe she insisted on pole-dancing during meetings of the cabinet, making it hard for Iain Duncan-Smith to concentrate.

But the more serious issue could be that when David Cameron was asked whether he’d shown “weak leadership” by insisting she wouldn’t resign, he said he hadn’t, because leadership is “allowing someone to get on with their job”.

This suggests another radical change in government thinking, changing the law so that anyone convicted of a crime is allowed to get on with their job. Judges will insist: “You are a habitual criminal who lies and cheats with no remorse, so under the new tough guidelines I must sentence you to getting on with your job.”  

Indeed, true leaders have always been those who ignore someone ruining everything and leave them to get on with their job. If Alexander the Great was told one of his generals had lost a battle because he was drunk and set fire to his own horse, he’d go into the garden and do some weeding, saying, “The main thing is to let him get on with his job, which I have to say he does rather well”, because that’s true leadership.

It’s possible that one quality of a capable leader is allowing people to get on with their job, but that depends on whether they’re any good at that job, doesn’t it? For example a good cricket captain will allow the bowler to bowl the ball, rather than creep up behind him as he’s about to let go and squirt bleach in his eyes. But if someone’s job, to pick an example at random, is to be a minister in a government that screams daily how the country was ruined by scavenging wasteful parasites who claimed all the country’s money in benefits pretending to be sick when they’re all Olympic weightlifters and trapeze artists the dirty thieving sponges, and then they’re caught wrongly claiming thousands of pounds on a second house, it may not be exactly the same.   

David Cameron went on to say that leadership means “giving someone a chance”, as he had done with Maria Miller. But he was unclear about what he meant by that. Did he mean give her a chance to try and be in the cabinet and NOT overclaim for a house for a while? Maybe if she went a fortnight and only overclaimed for a garage it would be churlish to make her resign, after such a step in the right direction. Or did he mean a chance to be better at culture and sport, so he said to her, “You’ve made a bit of a mess, but I’ll let you carry on as long as in the next week you write an opera and win a major tennis tournament”?

Another possibility is that when David Cameron said leadership was “allowing someone to get on with their job”, it was another example of him speaking in random unconnected words that only sound like a sentence when disguised by Etonian confidence. If the issue comes up again he’ll point at Ed Miliband and say, “True leadership is about allowing porcupines to cheat at chess even if they’ve flooded their own igloo, and THAT is something the party opposite will NEVER accept which is why I’ve swallowed his canoe.”

Because he’s becoming like a computer that’s had water in the back, popping out meaningless phrases like unruly predictive text. By the time of the election his speeches will go, “What this cartoon needs is Conscripted pillows for a Consecrated abattoir.”

And among the confusion the only idea we’ll be able to work out that he actually stands for is that from now on if you’re caught claiming thousands in benefits you’re not entitled to, you’ll be allowed to ask a group of your mates - half of whom have also been claiming benefits they’re not entitled to - what your punishment should be. And they will probably ask you to give a bit of it back, as long as you say sorry with just enough conviction that you don’t actually start giggling, because that’s the sign of true leadership.