Wednesday, 21 November 2007

It's not about blame, it's about perception

Matt Wardman has responded to a post by Dave Cole over at the Wardman Wire. I thought I'd throw my pennies worth in to their debate too... I agree with Dave that in itself this not a resignation issue. I'd also agree that the 10 day claims are not as bad as they are being portrayed. In Darling's defence this was an error by what is being portrayed as someone who is one payband up from the teaboy.

However, there are two reasons where a minister resigns or is sacked. Firstly ministerial negligence. That is to say a cock up that is entirely down to the minister. This issue clearly does not fit this description.

Secondly, if the perception of the minister from the press and public is doing damage to the government and there is no choice but for them to go. The subtle difference between whether they deserve to go or whether they should go.

Darling is hanging by a thread, even if he doesn't directly deserve to go. While none of the fiascoes that have hit his department are directly his fault, this is turning in to a Home Office "not fit for purpose" issue. An image he only confounded with his weak performance yet again in the Commons. The Treasury is the main department in the government and while HMRC is merely a "non-ministerial department" the buck still stop with the Chancellor. It is a tax funded department and therefore answerable to the tax payer and the electorate. Unfortunately for Darling, there can only be so many bad news stories a minister can take before people start asking what an earth is going in the Chancellor's kingdom? It did for Clarke and it did Blunkett at the Home Office. I still think sooner or later it will do for Darling.

The counter argument to this is whether a Minister should resign or be sacked because of a perception the electorate and media has of them. It does not seem fair, but history has shown this is largely an irrelevant question; while a minister can hang on for a few months under this sort of pressure, rightly or wrongly time is rarely on their side.

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