By Tim Montgomerie
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Cover boy – Boris sporting a very nice silk and patriotic handkerchief in his suit pocket.
It's that time of year again when GQ names the one hundred most influential men in Britain. I've read it so you don't have to. In no particular order of importance (or silliness) here are ten observations on the list…
- Boris is again GQ's top man. In articles by Michael Wolff and Matthew
d'Ancona there is examination of the Mayor's chance of becoming PM.
Both think it's realistic and MdA does not necessarily think Boris should wait
until the end of his mayoral term to return to the Commons (here's how he does it). Wolff identifies the
key problem for Boris: "Becoming prime minister is all about friends,
detailed networking and tortured alliances. Boris might be the most
popular politician in Britain, but he's the least popular among
politicians." That's relatively true and he needs to address that. D'Ancona suggests he finds an
excuse to invite every Tory MP to City Hall. That's good advice but if
Boris continues to prove in opinion polls that he's a winner and promises to be presidential chairman of an executive team (see plan here) he might find he has
more friends than the doubters currently calculate.
- Cameron, ranked third, is seen as less influential than Jeremy Heywood. GQ describes the Cabinet Secretary as the "most powerful civil servant
in decades". On this, I agree with the magazine. Number 10 has relatively few policy heavyweights – partly because of the nature of
coalition government and partly because David Cameron can feel more
comfortable around technocrats than Tories. Anthony Jay, creator of Yes
Minister, got it right in this week's Telegraph:
"The central anomaly is that civil servants have years of experience,
jobs for life, and a budget of hundreds of billions of pounds, while
ministers have, usually, little or no experience of the job and could
be kicked out tomorrow. After researching and writing 44 episodes and a
play, I find government much easier to understand by looking at
ministers as public relations consultants to the real government –
which is, of course, the Civil Service."
- Michael Gove is up from number 15 to number four. "More than anyone
else in the Cabinet, he has the PM's ear," writes GQ. The praise of Gove seems to be part of GQ's new negativity towards GO (their number one choice two years ago, now 41st). Gove probably
is the third most well-connected Tory in government but more influential or
close to the PM than Osborne? No. Not at all. I recently wrote about Mr Osborne's continuing importance… but also about some deterioration in his relationships with senior colleagues.
- GQ declares that "George Osborne is unlikely to be victorious" in his conflicts with IDS (number 78). Time will tell.
- Jeremy Hunt has gone from Number 30 to Number 10 because he oversees the NHS… "the world's fifth largest employer".
- Francis Maude and Oliver Letwin are jointly ranked number 71 (down from
48). "Without them," writes GQ, "the Government would not function."
Francis Maude has certainly been one of the Government's great
successes. Businesses and charities I talk to consistently say Oliver Letwin is the person they find most likely to make things happen if they've failed to make progress with a minister or staffer.
- Andrew Cooper, Downing Street Head of Strategy, is the fifth most
influential person in Britain and therefore the most important Tory staffer. The news of the appointment of Lynton
Crosby obviously hasn't reached Dylan Jones' desk! The GQ team couldn't even pick the right photo of Andrew. Double fail.
- Paul Dacre slides from number 10 in last year's list to number 64 this year. GQ credits the rise of Martin Clarke (ranked 11), Editor of MailOnline, and of Geordie Grieg, Editor of the Mail on Sunday. The second most important man in British newspapers – according to GQ – is The Times' Danny Finkelstein. "Nothing happens at The Times without his input," we are told, and he's "the best-connected man in British politics". He's certainly one of the kindest.
- Tory peer Lord Waldegrave is a new entry at number 6 for becoming Provost of Eton. No more needs to be said.
- …and then there are then some real odd components of the GQ list which makes me wonder why I bothered writing this blog…
- Did you know that life-wing firebrand Owen Jones is more
influential than Ed Miliband? Owen is the 21st most influential man in
Britain according to GQ while the Labour leader and Shadow Chancellor
Ed Balls are jointly ranked at 29. And continuing the anti-GO theme, according to GQ, Lionel Barber (13th), the Editor of the FT, is more influential than the Chancellor (41st). Silly, silly.