Friday, 27 May 2011



Sharon Shoesmith, who was Director of Children's Services in Haringey at the time of the 'Baby P' case, won her appeal against being sacked as a result of the case. I am not concerned with the details of this case - it was a terrible and perhaps avoidable tragedy and I'm sure Ms Shoesmith acted throughout as a professional officer.

My worry is that Ms Shoesmith's denial of accountability for her department's failures serves us, the public, poorly. Let me draw a comparison - and a contrast:

Dear Margaret, 

The Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands has led to strong criticism in Parliament and in the press of the Government's policy. In my view, much of the criticism is unfounded. But I have been responsible for the conduct of that policy and I think it right that I should resign. As you know, I have given long and careful thought to this. I warmly appreciate the kindness and support which you showed me when we discussed this matter on Saturday. But the fact remains that the invasion of the Falkland Islands has been a humiliating affront to this country. 

We must now, as you said in the House of Commons, do everything we can to uphold the right of the Islanders to live in peace, to choose their own way of life and to determine their own allegiance. I am sure that this is the right course, and one which deserves the undivided support of Parliament and of the country. But I have concluded with regret that this support will more easily be maintained if the Foreign Office is entrusted to someone else. 

I have been privileged to be a member of this Government and to be associated with its achievements over the past three years. I need hardly say that the Government will continue to have my active support. I am most grateful to you personally for the unfailing confidence you have shown in me. 

Yours ever 


That is accountability.



Lysistrata said...

Thank you Simon.
A true example of honourable conduct.
Why don't more people comment? Your posts are always well written and thought-provoking and, like this one, worthy of comment.

JuliaM said...

It seems she's in line for a large payout (although Gove has indicated he'll appeal it, though on what grounds, god only knows). It would be sweet if the judge awarded her a single penny in recompense.

It's all she's worth.

Anonymous said...

Lord Carrington's exemplary resignation letter is perhaps a greater example of honourable behaviour (in a cabinet minister) than it is of acountability; although Lord Carrington held himself acountable first and foremost. The position of appointments and dismissals to the cabinet (by no particularly due or transparant process) is I suspect very different in law (although it would be fun to see this tested!)from the dismissal of a local authority officer by a Government minister. The courts presumably are here upholding the rule of employment law or laws passed by Parliament. What might or might not be the hononourable course of action in such circumstances is a different matter. And I do agree, an important matter.

Crispin Moor