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Dedication, Not Delegation, Is What You Need Prime Minister

06/06/2014 13:43 BST | Updated 05/08/2014 10:59 BST

David Cameron has got me singing an old TV theme tune all morning. It's from the wonderful Roy Castle's Record Breakers: 'If you wanna be the best, if you wanna beat the rest, dedication's what you need...'

Except I've replaced the word dedication with delegation. Because for a man supposed to lead from the front and make the toughest decisions anyone in this country has to make, he is showing a remarkable ability to pass the buck in dealing with a quite pathetic spat.

The Prime Minister, whose closest political friend (Education Secretary, Michael Gove) has been embroiled in a very public row with his most important political colleague (Home Secretary, Theresa May) has asked the country's most powerful civil servant (Sir Jeremy Heywood) to get to the bottom of things.

The outward reason for the row is actually a red herring - who knew what and when about allegations that Muslim fanatics are/were trying to indoctrinate schoolchildren by ignoring the national curriculum.

The real reason, as even the most casual political observer can see, is that Gove doesn't like May. May could well rival Gove's other chum George Osborne if Cameron resigns after losing the General Election next year, so admired is she as a potential leader by her party and those at the Tory grassroots. Gove has been given permission to do what he can to shore up support for Cameron and Osborne and, like the clever, mischievous, manipulative journalist that he once was, has been astutely building friends within the media to make things very difficult indeed for May.

His mortgage, for instance, or holiday, is paid for by the owner of Associated Newspapers (Lord Rothermere, who employs Gove's wife, Sarah Vine, the godmother to Cameron's child, on an astonishingly high salary at the Daily Mail), he dines regularly with his former boss Rupert Murdoch and colleagues at the mogul's newspapers and many of his closest friends are colleagues at the Telegraph Media Group. Of the remaining newspapers that matter, The Mirror and Guardian hate all Tories and The Independent is, well, independent.

The point being that the Prime Minister knows exactly what's going on, that two people in his team are jostling for power, deliberately leaking snippets of facts to the media, trying to elbow each other out of the way, and he's shown remarkable reluctance to do what any self-respecting boss would and knock their heads together and tell them to grow up.

Instead, he comes across as frightened and dithering, of which I'm sure he's neither. But that's the impression he gives. Internal disputes are the indelible fabric of every working environment, they're not just the preserve of politics. A good boss will see it early and put a stop to it. If it breaks out into a mini-war, he or she ought to show leadership rather than call in a close colleague to 'have a word'.

A central tenet of good management is, of course, knowing when to delegate but it's also important to recognise that immediacy of action and taking charge are even more vital. Asking someone else to the dirty work when you know exactly what work has been dirtied is pretty lame.

Cameron has turned a childish, pretty insignificant internal row into a potentially damaging issue about his leadership. Heywood will find that no one is guilty, or that both are. Gove will continue his attack-dog behaviour in the knowledge that he's well protected and May, who has been one of the more effective and well-regarded Home Secretaries for many years, will feel even more resentment that an old boys' club is running the show.

She has shown dedication to the job. Her boss clearly prefers delegation, a form of behaviour that is alarmingly repetitive. Like a broken record.