Monday, March 12, 2007

I'm sure Nigel will be recycled himself

Minister Nigel Griffiths has, like PPS Jim Devine, resigned over the government's policy on Trident. He should be congratulated for taking that stance and welcomed into the small club of vaguely principled Labour politicans.

However, has the Edinburgh MP made anything like the sacrafice it seems today?

Ministerial resignations don't come along very often these days - with collective responsibility ignored, ministerial responsibility a thing of the past and individual respsonsibility only given a passing nod, it seems at first glance that it is a miracle that anybody quits.

Well, it is. But unlike generations gone past, resigning doesn't kill a career like it used to. Very few politicans of the past 50 years could have resigned and then come back again. Yet Blair recycles Ministers at a planet-savingly fast rate. Not only the big hitters like Blunkett and Mandelson, but the smaller fish too.

Politicans, of all ranks, are on the merry-go-round career ladder because they know that coming back is still an option. Just like former Tory frontbencher Patrick Mercer will have to see out some time on the backbenches, Mr Griffiths and Mr Devine won't wait long before Tony (or Gordon, or David, or John...) brings them back again.

I have no problem with more people quitting because they made a mistake or cannot support government policy and no problem with them coming back afterwards. But we should be aware of those who know they can!

Hence Nigel and Jim can happily quit on a Monday, vote against the government on a Wednesday and be back behind a Ministerial desk by Friday (metaphorically, not literally).

So before we all rush to declare Nigel Griffiths as the "man of the year" we should all stop to ask just how long his new-found principles will keep him outside of New Labour's payroll.

He quit because he knew the door was always left that little bit ajar.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not convinced that the recycling of resigned MPs is necessarily the modern phenomenon you paint it here, Anthony; Just to take a few (Tory) examples; In the 1980s, Cecil Parkinson wormed his way back on to Thatcher's front bench four years after resigning in ignominy. Peter Thorneycroft was back in ministerial office two years after his resignation in McMillan's 'little local difficulty' of 1958, while Enoch Powell, who resigned at the same time was similarly soon brought back as Health Secretary.

So I don't really buy your premise here that the revolving door is a new thing. Nor, I should add, do I think it's always a bad thing. If somebody has resigned on a point of principle rather than a matter of disgrace or a breach of trust, and they can return to office without compromising the principle that caused them to leave in the first place, then there are many reasons why one might want to welcome them back. We need more principled people willing to put their money where their mouths are in public office, not fewer.