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Take responsibility for my actions? You must be joking

Posted on August 29, 2023

You’ve got to hand it to some people. Those who make a total horlicks of important jobs in public office and then, without pausing long enough to blush at their crass incompetence, sail seamlessly into another cushy number.

Last week, in the wake of the Letby murders, The Times gave Matt Hancock space to write an article entitled How can we stop the revolving door of failed NHS managers? No wonder satirists complain that they can’t compete with real life. George Osborne went from the being the Chancellor who imposed the austerity that left Britain on its knees, to the editorship of the Evening Standard to being chair of the British Museum. Last week it emerged that, on his watch, the museum didn’t have a list of what was in there, rendering the pinching of ancient artefacts a touch easier than it really should have been. You’ll understand that neither George nor Matt consider these failures to be connected in any way to their own actions.

These rhino qualities were on show again this weekend with the antics of former Culture Secretary (yes, really) Nadine Dorries. Miffed by the fact that she wasn’t selected to sit in the Lords, and even more incensed when this slight was left unexplained by the Prime Minister, the honourable lady took a page from the playbook of her political enemies and went on strike. Her attendance at her place of work, already patchy, became non-existent and she became a ghost figure in the constituency she was supposed to represent.

None of this, you’ll understand, was her fault. She was, as she explained in her public letter of resignation, a victim of those responsible for ‘the political assassination of Boris Johnson’, which was, in itself, ‘a dark story…which grew ever more disturbing with each person I spoke to.’ Nothing to do with not speaking in the Commons for nearly a year, then? Or voting just six times during that time? Or not listing a constituency office on her website or parliamentary page?

But then with a hefty advance from the publishers for her forthcoming political kiss-and-tell tale of Johnson’s demise along with her payments from GB News, you can see that looking after the good people of Ampthill, Flitwick and Potton at a mere £84k a year (plus ministerial allowance) isn’t going to stir the blood of a firecracker like our Nadine. ‘Never one to sit still,’ she proudly proclaims on her home page.

This refusal to believe that taking responsibility for your own actions might be the just and moral thing to do is a sickness that has infected public life on a global scale. Dorries’ beloved poster-boy took his own cue from Trump when it came to notions of personal responsibility. This unapologetic doubling-down has become the new normal from these blustering public figures who seem to have convinced themselves that righteous indignation is the default response when their faults are exposed. Which is exactly why every sensible person now needs to vocalise support for Spanish footballer Jenni Hermoso and her fellow players.

Summoning his inner Dorries, fierce lip-kisser Luis Rubiales tells us that he doesn’t believe that his actions were wildly inappropriate. All of this hullabaloo has been cooked up by ‘false feminists’ and he’s the victim of ‘a manipulative, hostile and controlling culture.’ Like I said to you, satirists, listen and weep. What’s more, in a chilling echo of the Trump rallies, where apparently sensible people cheer his bleats about being mistreated to the rafters, Rubiales didn’t have to work hard to find his own devotees. His petulant refusal to resign was applauded wildly by an assembly of Spanish football officials.

But a mom will always love her wayward son, however wild his misdemeanours.  Angeles Bejar has hunkered down in her local church and will stay there ‘as long as my body holds out….I don’t mind dying for justice, because my son is a decent person.’ Not decent enough, it seems, to hold his hands up and apologise for acting like a spoilt, tin-eared letch. Mother and son are clearly hoping that, in the spirit of the double-downers, he’s in tune with the spirit of the age. After all, he’s done nothing wrong and it’s not his fault. His mom said so.

There is, of course, a broader hinterland to all these stories. Hancock, Osborne and Dorries all have their political home in a party that puts individual gain before public welfare. Their notion of public service barely surfaces in a world where profit is to be made and personal fortunes accrued. Rubiales is supported by a growing constituency in Spanish politics  – still, thankfully, a minority – which believes that women’s rights have gone too far and threatens to repeal gender-based violence laws, restrict access to abortion and shut down the Ministry of Equality.

So when it comes to a choice between those who wouldn’t accept personal responsibility if it bit their fat backsides and a brilliant footballer who has become the focus for resistance to such shabbiness, it shouldn’t be hard to know where to take a stand.

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