The Spectator

Why do politicians want to hire this man so badly?

Why do politicians want to hire this man so badly?
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The former Met Chief Lord Stevens must be the most in-demand man in British politics. The Tories try and get him to run for London Mayor and then after they’ve failed to do that put him in charge of their border security taskforce. Now, Gordon Brown has drafted him as an adviser on international security issues. It can only be a matter of time until Ming gets in on the act and asks him to do something.

Why then is Stevens so popular? Partly, it is because he was a successful Met chief who has proved himself to be media savvy with his TV appearances and columns in the News of the World. Yet, more important is that he serves as a form for validation for politicians with a sceptical public.

The electorate are now so cynical that they are inclined to dismiss politicians’ promises as meaningless unless they are accompanied by a guarantor. So, for example, if you want to be deemed credible on aid be photographed with Bono or appoint Bob Geldof to advise your development policy group.

This reshuffle with its smattering of outside figures, and the spinners emphasis on them, shows that Brown gets this. Indeed, interestingly, he extends this into the less eye-catching aspects of policy: note how Alan Greenspan is a Treasury adviser. In this respect, at least, Brown has proved himself to be in touch with the zeitgeist.