Lest we forget...
The first was the resignation of Mark Harper, following the discovery that his cleaner was working in Britain illegally. He felt, as immigration minister, that he had no option but to do the honourable thing and resign.
Although I complied with the law at all times, I consider that as Immigration Minister, who is taking legislation through Parliament which will toughen up our immigration laws, I should hold myself to a higher standard than expected of others.The story this instantly brought to mind was when Baroness Scotland, then Attorney-General, was caught having failed to check at all on the status of her cleaner, which put her in breach of a law that she herself had brought in as Immigration Minister. Obviously she didn't resign (Labour ministers only resign if they want to unseat a Prime Minister; if they're caught lying, or breaking the law, or turning their office into an international joke they have to be prised out of their ministerial Jags like so many recalcitrant oysters). Instead she airily dismissed the fact that, unlike Harper, she had broken the law.
"This is a civil penalty, just as if you drive into the city and you don't pay your congestion charge or you overpay," Scotland told Sky News. "It is not a criminal offence. I have made an administrative, technical error."
The law, of course, is only for the little people.
The other was Eric Pickles's apology for not over-ruling the Environment Agency and dredging the Somerset levels. Now this isn't really an apology:
"I'll apologise. I'll apologise unreservedly. I am really sorry that we took the advice … we thought we were dealing with experts."But politicians only ever say sorry properly for things that aren't their fault. When things are their fault they wriggle. And Pickles's blunt way of doing it made me think of Des Browne, a minor figure even in Gordon Brown's pygmoid cabinets. I can't even remember the circumstances here (I've gone and looked it up: he authorised those sailors who were captured by Iran to sell their stories to the papers, doing more damage in one stroke to the Navy's reputation than anyone since Sir Cloudesley Shovell), but I can remember what he said when asked to apologise for his error of judgement:
"I have expressed a degree of regret that can be equated with an apology."That's where we're heading folks. Enjoy it.