Is intelligence over-rated in Ministers?

Is it possible that David Davis is correct and you actually do not have to be that intelligent to be a Minister? The list of daft comments and actions by Government Ministers and members of the Cabinet is endless but that could be less a lack of intellect but rather simply opening their mouths before the brain kicks in.

Mr Davis has succeeded in making a series of ill-advised comments since taking up his position as Brexit Secretary. Most recently, he said guarantees on the Northern Ireland border – included in a joint EU-UK report published on Friday – were not legally binding unless the two sides reached a final deal. This provoked a furious response from Guy Verhofstadt, who referred to them as ‘unacceptable’ and called upon the PM to bring him into line. Davis then backtracked rather speedily telling LBC radio less than 24 hours later that the commitments would be honoured and he had been quoted out of context. This incident is one in a long line of gaffes and mishaps from the Brexit Secretary, widely seen as ineffectual during the negotiations which required the PM to fly back and forth to Brussels last week to get the deal over the line.

But David Davis is hardly the first (or undoubtedly will be the last) Minister to open his mouth and find his or her size 12s firmly implanted – Edwina Currie and John Gummer spring to mind, to name a few. The question does still remain, does that make them lacking in intelligence or simply unworldly – and does the absence of either make any politician unsuitable for high office? Quite probably, but that would not necessarily stop their appointment as ability to do a job can so often play second fiddle to patronage and the return of favours.

Davis’ comments could be seen as refreshing – a politician speaking plainly and not trying to pull the wool over our eyes. However, his position is one of representing the UK on the international stage and for that intelligence and worldliness is most definitely required. So if Mr Davis thinks he is not that perceptive or brainy, someone else should be doing his job. Now is too delicate a time as the government plans our future outside the EU to leave it to luck.