Sunday, April 30, 2006

Walden on Minsterial Resignations

I always thought Brian Walden was a very good (if rather prolix) interlocutor on Weekend World many moons ago. But as a commentator I find him a pompous reactionary. Still, he was on the ball on Radio 5 this morning, arguing that nowadays what determines whether a Minister resigns is simply public and press reaction. The Minister will wait to see if there is a huge public outcry and whether it dominates the front page of the papers for days or weeks on end ("the Campbell test") and if it does then "the chap has to go"; if not he stays. On the other hand, I suspect it was always like this: perhaps the role of the media is more important nowadays, but my guess is that base political calculation has always been the key consideration. The oft-cited examples of Thomas Dugdale and Peter Carrington are perhaps exceptions that prove the rule; and even in these cases closer examination might show "the primacy of politics" vis-a-vis abstract constitutional doctrine. Charles Clarke view that - because he was responsible for the recent fiasco - he should not resign, but has a duty to stay on to sort things out, involves a flat rejection of the standard interpretation of "individual ministerial responsbility". It is also, of course, quite absurd.


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