By George Davis
In December 1988, Britain's Junior Health Minister Edwina Currie resigned from Margaret Thatcher's government. What was her transgression? During a television interview, Mrs Currie claimed that most of Britain's egg production was infected with the salmonella bacteria. At that time, Britons were consuming close to 30 million eggs per day and the comment resulted in a plummet in sales.
Egg farmers and politicians were incensed by the comment, with Currie's colleagues from the agriculture ministry failing to back up her claims. She was initially supported publicly by Prime Minister Thatcher and Health Secretary Kenneth Clarke, but the scandal forced her to resign a fortnight later. Currie, who always insisted her comment was made based on information she received from the Department of Health, remained an MP until she lost her seat in 1997.
On September 24, 1992, Britain's Heritage Minister David Mellor resigned after the People newspaper published details of his extramarital affair with actress Antonia de Sancha in July of that year. The revelation that Mellor was having consensual sex with an adult woman was followed by stories that he had accepted two free holidays, one from the ruler of Abu Dhabi and the other from an official of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Forced into Resigning
Mellor never confessed to any of the accusations but was still forced into resigning from John Major's government. Major told Mellor that he admired his courage and was accepting his resignation with a heavy heart. The editor of People at the time, Bill Hagerty, said he published the details of Mellor's extramarital affair because he felt it was in the public interest.
On December 23, 1998, Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Mandelson resigned the post after failing to disclose he had accepted a £373,000 loan from Britain's Paymaster General Geoffrey Robinson. At that time, a unit under Mandelson's watch, the Department of Trade and Industry, was examining Robinson's business interests.
When news of the loan became public on December 21, Mandelson denied there being any conflict of interest, saying he did not believe that accepting a loan from a friend and fellow MP was wrong. British Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a statement saying he was confident Mandelson had properly insulated himself from Robinson's business arrangements.
On December 22, Mandelson told the media he was not involved at all in the probe of Robinson's business interests and that he had accepted the home-improvement loan long before he became minister. Downing Street issued a statement that same day supporting both Mandelson and Robinson.
At 9:20 a.m. on the eve of Christmas Eve, Cabinet Secretary Jack Cunningham said while Mandelson had handled the issue badly, there was no breach of the British ministerial code. Three hours and 10 minutes later, Downing Street issued a statement saying Peter Mandelson had resigned. In his resignation letter to Blair, Mandelson admitted he should not have accepted the loan. He said that having done so, he should have informed the relevant officials.
FROM SCANDAL to scandal
But the basis of his resignation, Mandelson wrote, was that he did not want the Tony Blair government to be staggering from one ministerial scandal to another like the previous regime of John Major.
I could mention the resignation of the former secretary of state for Wales, Ron Davies, on October 27 1998, who admitted to "a moment of madness" when he allegedly got mugged while walking along Clapham Common, a notorious gay meeting place in South London. But the point is already made.
This is how men and women whom people are forced to refer to as Honourable or His Worship are supposed to act in light of a scandal. This is the standard to be followed.
Against these four examples, it's gobsmacking that Richard Azan could have lasted so long. Even more fantastic is Mayor Scean Barnswell's continued collection of taxpayer-funded salary, after having already made one court appearance in answer to a criminal charge.
So if our leaders behave like this, how can they upbraid students about daggering at the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre or on the public buses? I'm convinced there are no mirrors in the homes of those who populate our Government.
George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.