When should a politician resign?

When should a politician resign? What is the bar for a politician to resign from Ministerial or public office?

Firstly the trend in regard to leaders and major referendums is the most clear cut. Alex Salmond lost the Scottish Independence Referendum, he resigned as First Minister. David Cameron lost the EU Referendum, he resigned as Prime Minister. Matteo Renzi lost his referendum on  constitutional reform and he resigned as Italian PM.

We haven’t had a referendum specific to the north for a while. The south on the other hand love a good referendum – without the Taoiseach ever having the good grace to step down when the government loses of course.

Anything sexual tends to be career ending or at the very least damaging. Keith Vaz stood down as Chairperson of the Home Affairs Committee at Westminster after claims that he paid for the services of two male sex workers.

Competence in office is a much greyer area. Is a Minister accountable for everything that happens in his/her department or just high level policy matters? Where is the line drawn?

In Japan during the early 2000s a string of Prime Ministers resigned due to unpopularity. No such rules apply here. The tendency being to ‘ride out the storm’ and wait for another scandal to come along to distract the wrath of the public and the watchful eye of the journo-hawks.

In the same way that some ask ‘who polices the police’ we should ask who holds Ministers to account for their oversight of public funding. These are high level positions that pay handsomely. Is accountability simply an appearance at a Committee, the Minister takes their oil if necessary, and then we all move on?

Geir Haarde was the first politician in Iceland’s history to stand trial for negligence in office at a court which was created to hear charges brought against ministers.

If we had an independent process in place that held Ministers to account for their management of public monies in highly exceptional circumstances such as this would that really be such a bad thing? The Icelandic model is not perfect but the principle is a sound one.

The frustration that the public are expressing now is due to lack of accountability. Politicians hold politicians to account (and sometimes they do an excellent job) but surely there needs to be greater deterrents in place to bring a degree of sobriety to ministerial office?

I am not going to go over the RHI issue and Arlene Foster in this post but there should be a debate about what deterrents we put in place to avoid another half a billion blooper in the future.

We used to call the DETI (Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment) portfolio the ‘Ministry of Photographs’ because all the public ever seen was pictures of the Minister opening businesses and doing visits. Perhaps a more accountable oversight mechanism for Ministers would see them spend less time smiling and a bit more time at the office desk?

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  • Redstar

    Well as your old comrades will do everything to cover Fosters back-Nama, Red Sky, Uda Slush funds and now this one -100s of millions gone but NO ONE accountable-the golden rule is if you’re career politicos in a pretend administration you never have to resign

  • Blade Sprinter

    What is SF’s strategy on this? How much dry powder do they need? How much rope do they have to feed to Unionism?

    The Maze center. The Irish Language. Fleggerism. On and on it goes. Always a calm, smiling, steady as she goes, don’t rock the boat approach from SF.

    Even when Adams is getting blasted from all sides about the Stack murder, SF don’t seem to want to take the heat off him by making noise about this.

    Is there some strategy I don’t see? Do the UK have blackmail material on SF? I’m puzzled.

  • Lex.Butler

    Parliaments are full of irreplaceable people (to misquote de Gaulle).

  • Brian Kann

    Good article: but the rules of politics don’t apply in Northern Ireland. I’ve lost count of the number of times something has happened which would have finished the career of a political figure in any other country, and which was brushed aside here. I’ve often thought why this is, but the simplest answer is that as long as your tribe hates the others more than you, you’ve a job for life. Political leadership in NI tends to last as long as the leaders want it too, or their health allows it, much longer than most other places anyways.

    I could be wrong, but I’d hazard a guess that you’d have to go back to Captain O’Neill to get someone who voluntarily resigned in mid-office.

  • ted hagan

    ‘The frustration that the public are expressing now is due to lack of accountability.’
    What rot. The frustration being expressed by the public is because of the lack of faith it has in the competence and honesty of its politicians, ie, including the Jamie Bryson affair, and the fact that SF/DUP are in cahoots in a corrupt, and seemingly untouchable, administration.

  • Glenn

    “When should a politician resign”? When they arrange a meeting with murders and the victim then claim they are misunderstood and must protect his source and deny the victim justice.


  • Glenn

    Gerry taking one for the team??? Now there would be a first.

  • articles

    Very unlikely as it might be, Arlene like Peter could step aside for a few weeks.

    Curiously enough the Indian government are finding it difficult to burn all of the £23 billion’s worth of notes that they confiscated recently. Surely an opportunity for knowledge transfer from the DUP. Turn the notes into pellets and incentivise the bio mass users and take £50 billion out of the economy and turn the ashes into bricks to be bought back, that’s £75billion. Per capita this would still be far far less costly than the additional tax burden in good old Norn Iron.

  • ted hagan

    Power. It’s the only motive for them being there in the first place. It’s that cynical.

  • North Down

    Sf used all there dry powder up

  • Zig70

    Man, that line jumps out at me. Even when Adams is getting heat for appearing to cover up murder. SF can say what they want but they are always standing on straw.

  • Declan Doyle

    Maybe Mairia having been a Republican and associated with dissident Republicans might have a few secrets of her own to share? She wont be asked of course now that she is in the employ of the Sindo alongside her cousin.

  • Gopher

    “If we had an independent process”. There is no such thing in Northern Ireland nor will there ever be one and by the way Northern Ireland does not need anymore layers of government it needs the existing ones streamlined. In other governmental forms there are powers of no confidence and impeachment. The simple fact is we are incapable of governing ourselves. If there was no petition of concern Arlene would now be toast unless of course SF voted with her, that is the fundamental fact.

  • file

    From another thread, I thought that Vincent Browne had already established that the Gardaí already have the name involved, having been given it by both Stack and Adams?

  • Lionel Hutz

    The public in NI are full of it when it comes to politics. You can’t complain about a lack of accountability when the public take no opportunity to change things at the ballot box. Nothing that is done or not done in the assembly or executive moves the needle one iota.

  • “When should a politician resign?”

    How about when an industrial tribunal finds that “the minister’s evidence is implausible and lacks credibility.”

    That there was “a material bias against the appointment of candidates from a Protestant background”.

    And that the then NI Commissioner for Public Appointments had found an “enormous number of gaps” in the process of appointing replacements to the Interim NI Water Board – including the current NI Finance Minister.

    From a previous post.

    “We couldn’t find out how people had ended up being interviewed,” [NI Commissioner for Public Appointments, Felicity Huston] said.

    “There were missing records about submissions to ministers where advice is given to a minister on how we might proceed.

    “I have to say that I have investigated other public appointment competitions in DRD and been very dissatisfied with them.”