A little earlier in my journalistic career I worked on an upmarket men’s magazine, and we regularly had trouble with our motoring columnist. He was difficult to contact; parked wherever he pleased in central London (leaving us with an eyewatering stack of parking tickets to pay); and would never, ever hit our deadlines. His name? Boris Johnson, and he’s probably your next Prime Minister.
His chief campaign promise is that he will deliver Brexit in 100 days. ‘Delays don’t make deals, deadlines do,’ he has said. Given that detaching the UK from 40 odd years of legal, political and economic arrangements is a little more complex than writing 800 words about a Kia hatchback, I suspect this won’t end well.
His unfancied challenger is a man anyone who works in the NHS will have an opinion on, Jeremy Hunt. At 14/1 in a two-horse race, he is pretty much unfancied, and yet seasoned Hunt watchers will know of his tendency to upset the odds.
You wouldn’t have backed the man who had to follow Andrew Lansley to become the longest ever serving Health Secretary. But Hunt saw out a junior doctors’ strike, introduced the Five-Year Forward View and left the NHS with a £20bn funding boost. His legacy can be disputed, but his political craft is indisputably strong.
So why, given the complexity of the brief and the quality of some of the incumbents, has no Health Secretary gone on to become PM since Neville Chamberlain? Perhaps that particular question answers itself, but why isn’t Health considered one of the great offices of state? After all, for the minister who can stay on to of the NHS, with its £120bn budget and myriad of complexities, the top job should hold no terrors.
Hunt for PM? We could do worse, and probably will.