'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Monday 18 July 2011

Stephensons' Resignation: the bar just got lower.

(Reproduced from my piece on Lib Dem Voice)

The resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson as commissioner of The Met is significant in a way beyond the obvious interpretation.

As someone tweeted earlier, from their resignation statements, one might surmise that everyone who has resigned so far has done absolutely nothing wrong. However, the difference in the Paul Stephenson case is that everybody seems to be falling over themselves to agree.

In the hour after his resignation I saw or heard statements from Boris Johnson, Kit Malthouse and Jenny Jones all lauding the honourable decision Sir Paul had made and in many ways lamenting his loss.

So, let's take it on face value that Sir Paul has indeed done nothing wrong - but that he has done what I have been calling for many others to do in recent weeks; that is accept with great power comes great responsibility, and that even if you are not to blame for things that go wrong, taking responsibility means resigning none the less.

Suddenly, the game has now changed. Up to now nearly everyone has tried to play the 'don't blame me, I knew nothing' card. Now that excuse won't wash, because a higher standard has been set.

Now News Corpororation Executives, police officers and politicians alike will have to do accept responsibility, and act accordingly - or stand accused of doing the dishonourable thing.

Statements like James Murdoch's acknowledgement, for example, that he authorised payments without being in full possession of the facts, make him look rather exposed.

And anyone - even up to the Prime Minister - who tries the 'I didn't know' or 'I was misled' lines must realise that from today, this will simply no longer do. From now on, even if you are not to blame, you're still responsible.

Sir Paul, with his resignation, has done his country one great service.The bar for getting the great and the good to resign just got lowered.

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