Case Study Boris Johnson
Johnson pulled the Treasury closer to No. 10, imposed iron discipline on departmental advisers, made controversial political appointments to the civil service, announced plans to streamline government communications. In past decades, successive prime ministers have complained about this lack of control and an inability to keep a close eye on departments, increasing the chances of being blindsided by crises. Tony Blair, David Cameron and Theresa May were all accused, in various ways and at various points in their premierships, of similarly trying to become more presidential, though real reform of Whitehall failed to materialize.
“Boris Johnson’s frustration with the comparatively small support structure in No. 10 means it’s likely he’ll build a stronger center — either an actual Department of the PM or something like that in all but name; a model more like the White House,” said Alex Thomas, a former senior civil servant and expert on Whitehall for the Institute for Government. A string of permanent secretaries, including Cabinet Office boss Mark Sedwill, announced unexpected departures. Former Home Office boss Philip Rutnam launched a constructive dismissal claim amid allegations of bullying by Home Secretary Priti Patel. Johnson backed her before launching an inquiry that is still to be published.
Often known simply as Boris, Johnson has attracted a variety of nicknames, including "BoJo", a portmanteau of his forename and surname. Biographer Sonia Purnell described his public persona as "brand Boris", noting he developed it while at the University of Oxford. Max Hastings referred to this public image as a "façade resembling that of P. G. Wodehouse's Gussie Fink-Nottle, allied to wit, charm, brilliance and startling flashes of instability", while political scientist Andrew Crines stated Johnson displayed "the character of a likable and trustworthy individual with strong intellectual capital". Private Eye editor Ian Hislop has defined him as "Beano Boris" due to his perceived comical nature, saying: "He's our Berlusconi ... He's the only feel-good politician we have, everyone else is too busy being responsible." To the journalist Dave Hill, Johnson was "a unique figure in British politics, an unprecedented blend of comedian, conman, faux subversive showman and populist media confection"