Last month council chiefs basked as George Osborne praised them as “unsung heroes”. This week normal order was restored: John Denham attacked their pay; Caroline Spelman set out Tory plans to abolish them altogether.
It is little consolation that they are only the latest public sector managers in the firing line. Perennial favourite is the NHS manager: “sack ‘em all and spend themoney on doctors and nurses”, cry the media.
But why such derision?
Perhaps because management is an invisible art. Managers work behind the scenes, oiling the wheels, removing obstacles and planning the route.
Take them out for a week and things might be ok; take them out for longer and machinery will seize.
Or perhaps it’s because “anyone can be a manager”. The many poor managers in all sectors are proof this is not the case: they struggle when promoted and left to manage without training or support.
The Tory plan for elected mayors to take on executive duties and dispense with chiefs ignores these important points. Elected members are vital for local accountability.
But they were voted in for their vision and political promises, not their management skills. Indeed many of the worst scrapes occur when they have strayed.
This attack on chief executives exploits public ignorance of the important benefits managers bring.
The only answer is spreading understanding. It will be easier said than done.