Sunday, April 30, 2006

The new doctrine of individual ministerial responsibility

Is something of a constitutional innovation - completely reversing, as it seems to do, the old one whereby a minister was responsible to Parliament for the conduct of his or her department. And when some major failure of administration was within the reserve of a given department, it was understood that it was the duty of the minister to take responsibility for any such failings rather than civil servants who are not similarly accountable to Members of Parliament.

Generally this meant the bigger the fuck-up, the greater the likelihood of resignation. Today, apparently, it means the opposite: the more fucked-up the situation is, the greater qualification to remain in the job the present incumbent has. The special insight that comes from being the minister responsible for the initial fuck-up only serves to underline how well-suited they are to 'clean-up the mess' they are responsible for having overseen in the first place.

Charles Clarke believes in the new doctrine.

This is why "Mr Clarke has dismissed calls from opposition MPs for him to quit."

My own view is the new doctrine has one or two fairly basic flaws, but this may be because I'm not progressive enough.

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