How Much Does A Prime Minister's Character Matter?

The Economist's Bagehot asks:

In [Gordon] Brown’s case, it isn’t only his temper. He is dangerously workaholic, sometimes indecisive, and he struggles to delegate. A lifetime in politics has enthralled him to its machinations and short-termismthough he also possesses an almost superhuman resilience, which has helped him to withstand the serial meltdowns and coups of the past few years. These traits may indeed help to explain some of his government’s failings, if they mean he intimidates his staff and wastes his own energy. Perhaps his alleged propensity to throw mobile phones and punch car seats is somehow connected to Britain’s gargantuan deficit and the severe recession he has presided over.

Or perhaps it isn’t. History suggests that sometimes bad manners and habits are destructive; sometimes they are not. And ultimately it is the facts of the deficit and recession that matter, not rumours of hurled phones and stapled hands, etc; it is the record, not the irruptions. If Mr Brown’s record were better, people would probably be less interested in his mood swings.