seagull manager (n.) an overseer who arrives, ruins everything, then departs without fixing it
Two former UK Prime Ministers stepped back into the political limelight this week.
One is a level-headed, fiercely pro-European, and still highly respected statesman, who has boldly used his platform to wade into the on-going High Court battle over Boris Johnson’s dubious prorogation of parliament. The other is the bullish Old Etonian who got us into this mess in the first place—and who, as if to compound his reputation as The Worst Prime Minister In History Before The Last Two Prime Ministers, somehow managed to blurt out on live television this week that he “shat on his tv” the morning of the Brexit results.
Don’t worry, we’re not making Freudian slip the Word of the Week, we have something else in mind. That’s because, after three years in quasi-retirement, David Cameron returned to the stage this week to survey the ruins of his political bulldozering.
You remember David Cameron, right? He was the one who arranged a referendum three years ago on an issue that practically nobody cared about at the time; that asked an ill-informed electorate to pick between a defined and an entirely undefined choice, open to countless interpretations
Unlike Sir John Major, Mr Cameron has notably not opted to return to the fray to, say, call out Boris Johnson’s current bungling regime, nor to seek compromise or effective leadership. Instead, HE HAS A MEMOIR TO SELL, GODDAMMIT, and with Christmas now on the other side of a recession-baiting No Deal Brexit, HE NEEDS THOSE AMAZON PRE-ORDERS THIS SIDE OF OCTOBER 31ST.
You remember David Cameron, right? He was the one who arranged a referendum three years ago on an issue that practically nobody cared about at the time; that asked an ill-informed electorate to pick between a defined and an entirely undefined choice, open to countless interpretations; that despite being advisory, was accompanied by literature clearly saying the result would be enacted by government; and that had no active thresholds, meaning this entire mess has since been driven by a ratio of 17 to 16, and with one pair of UK constituent nations pitted against the other. If only there had been some kind of red flag back then that this might not end well…
Of course, as well as apparently soiling his television set on the morning of the Brexit results, Mr Cameron also announced his resignation on 24 June 2016, thereby vanishing out of the public eye to tend to his self-inflicted wounds in, er, a £25,000 luxury shed. And—on the subject of leaving other people to clear up your own mess—that brings us to this week’s Word of the Week.
In his era-defining book Leadership and the One Minute Manager (1985), the American author and management guru Ken Blanchard introduced a new term to the workplace environment. A seagull manager, he explained, was a boss who, when they hear that something is awry, has a tendency to “fly-in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone, then fly out.” As words go—and the images their conjure up—it is certainly an evocative one. And given David Cameron’s unfortunate slip-of-the-tongue on Thursday, it is also an oddly pertinent one.