Tuesday, July 24, 2007

David Benson-Pope must go

David Benson-Pope must resign over the Madeleine Setchell sacking. Why? I can think of three reasons:

  • He has misled the public, professing ignorance to the media when he had been briefed. Ministers have been sacked for less.
  • While he is blaming a member of his staff for instigating the sacking by calling MfE Chief Executive Hugh Logan, he also claims that he would have made the call himself, and "reserves the right" to express such concerns in future. This shows a disturbing lack of respect for the independence of the Chief Executive in employment matters, and a complete failure to understand the issues around public service neutrality.
  • While the actual call was made by a member of his staff, as Minister, Benson-Pope is responsible for it. Like Colin James, I believe in Ministerial responsibility. This principle has been weakened in the past two decades, as the move to managerialism in the public sector has allowed responsibility and accountability to fall into the gap created by the Chief Executive's Performance Agreement. But if there's one thing a Minister is still responsible for, it is the conduct of the staff in their own office.

An honourable Minister with respect for the conventions of publis service neutrality and Ministerial responsibility would tender their resignation. A sensible Prime Minister would ask for it. I guess now we'll get to see whether Benson-Pope and Clark are honourable or sensible or have any respect for those principles.