Sorry, Sunak – what Britain needs is a leader who’s a bit nuts

Sitwell: 'The Conservative Party would do well to remember the Brits' love for a charismatic figure'
Sitwell: 'The Conservative Party would do well to remember the Brits' love for a charismatic figure' - Future Publishing

Guess who’s to blame for our nation’s woes? According to a Gallup report it’s the “quiet quitters” who are costing the economy £257 billion in lost output. They’re the reason our country has plunged down the league table of the wealthiest nations. And the people at Gallup have figured out that this lack of productivity stems from a growing sense of sadness, stress and anger; all of which cause that loss of motivation. The polling company supposes that only 10 per cent of the workforce puts extra effort into their jobs and the laziness of the rest could be costing the UK 11 per cent of GDP.

Maybe this is where Rishi Sunak pins his hopes of gaining revenue without tax rises. As he said in his BBC interview with Nick Robinson this week: “If we recover just to pre-Covid levels of productivity, so nothing heroic, just as productive as we were before the pandemic hit… that productivity gain is worth £20 billion.”

So come on, buck up you lazy so-and-sos, moaning and groaning and whingeing and whining. Stop snoozing from home, get back at the coalface, get out there and get selling and put your back into it.

Except, of course, to stir us into labour we need leaders: people of substance, grit, style, and verve. And, sorry about this Mr Sunak, but the barmier the better.

Because it must really pain the Prime Minister that he looks into the mirror and considers himself a decent man, a polite chap, a very hard-working individual, resilient, determined, focused, all over the detail and with the country’s best interests in his heart. (And I genuinely believe this of him, and no, Nick Robinson, he did not “bunk off D-Day”, he simply made a catastrophic diary error, a presentation misjudgment, and he apologised for it. What do people further want from this man? To flog himself in public, or offer himself as a sacrifice?)

Instead Tory supporters are now flocking to Nigel Farage, with his city-trader-at-the-races coat, his frog-like expression, his bombast, his fags and pints and chucked milkshakes, all protest and no policy but a sense of humour, and, crucially, the sense that he’s enjoying himself. “A vote for the Conservatives is a vote for Labour,” he chuckled this week, as his party nudged ahead in the polls. Boris Johnson was the same when he was on his own campaign trail in 2019: he looked like he was having fun. He made zany videos for social media that parodied the film Love Actually, and he was not all over the detail and his hair was a mess and he looked like he couldn’t even match a pair of socks.

The former prime minister Boris Johnson, in a parodied video of the film 'Love Actually' in 2019
The former prime minister Boris Johnson, in a parodied video of the film 'Love Actually' in 2019 - PA

And that’s what Conservative supporters warmed to. His barmy, nutty, bonkers style of leadership. And that’s actually what we all want. Britain’s barmy army demands a barmy leader. The best bosses I’ve had have been decidedly nuts.

For many years, while I worked at a media firm called John Brown, the man in charge was John Brown. Every month he rallied the troops in the office café standing on a chair and reading extracts from Viz, a magazine he published. In winning the business, he’d beaten off competing publishers who flew the Viz owners down to London in a helicopter. John went to Newcastle, took them to the nearest pub and wrote a business plan for them on the back of a napkin.

In business pitches, he peeled the labels off water bottles and unwound the cotton thread on his shirt buttons and then sewed them back on again. “I’ve got one question,” he once asked a big brand in Paris after they outlined their business to us. They expected a penetrating query on revenue or some such. “Is there somewhere near here I can buy a nice belt?”

Every summer he took the whole company to Le Touquet where he judged the sandcastle building competition with more seriousness than he interrogated the firm’s figures. When he announced to us that he had sold the company, he didn’t want us to see that he had a tear in his eye so made his entire speech with his back turned. And we would have followed him over the trenches.

In this election the Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has made a point of being photographed falling off a paddle board, careering out of control down a hill on a bicycle and plunging down a waterslide. Sadly, he’s rather staid and sensible in interviews.

But imagine if Labour ditched their leader and went instead for Angela Rayner. People might actually head for the ballot box with a spring in their step rather than dragging themselves to the village hall and putting a cross against the Labour candidate with a weary groan. Mad Ange with her heels, hair and froth, whose instinct is to campaign like an angry student, desperate for class war, to rid us of Tory scum (wryly smiling and shaking Penny Mordaunt’s hand as the credits of their election debate rolled) at least adds energy to the Labour cause.

The Conservative Party would do well to remember the Brits’ love for a charismatic figure to lead if July 4 delivers what the opinion polls suggest. Normal doesn’t work so it’s time for an eccentric nutter. Sir Jacob, hold on to your majority in North East Somerset and Hanham and your time may come. Especially as I suspect Sir Keir would not thrive as a PM in defensive mode at the dispatch box. After a savage defeat, the least us Tory supporters deserve is some entertainment at Prime Minister’s Questions.

With actual socialist loonies in charge we’ll need a character to cheer on; a person who can really rally the “quiet quitters”.

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