A Busted Flush
Yesterday Clare Short, the UK International Development Secretary, resigned her post in the Cabinet. She cited her reason as being the fact that, in her opinion, the British Prime Minister had misled Parliament over the action taken in Iraq; which she believes to be a breach of international law.
Taken at face value, the resignation may seem to be a highly principled and noble action. However, I would draw your attention to the following salient facts:
Prior to the Iraq invasion Ms Short threatened to resign, on the principle that she was opposed to any military action which did not have the backing of the UN. However, when push came to shove she chose to stay.
Since resigning she has used several interviews to attack the non collective nature of the Cabinet, Tony Blair’s presidential style and the alleged rule by “diktat” that has, in her opinion, been omnipresent since Labour’s election victory in 1997. These may well be genuine failings of the Labour administration. However, since in her view they date back to 1997; why has she taken six years to identify them?
She missed a crucial vote in the Commons last week, stating that there had been a mix up in her diary; adding that she would have voted for the government. She then found herself to be too busy to attend the weekly Cabinet meeting. These events, naturally, heightened press speculation about her imminent departure from government office. My view is that if you intend to resign, don’t play games in the days beforehand; just do it.
Ms Short is calling on Tony Blair to step down before the next general election, and pave the way for Gordon Brown (the Chancellor) to take over. In my opinion, this betrays the real reason for her resignation; it is not a matter of principle, but personal antipathy towards the Prime Minister.
My advice to others, be they politicians or civilians, who may be contemplating taking the “lonely journey” of resignation is as follows:
Don’t publicly threaten to resign then change your mind. It diminishes your credibility and dignity.
When resigning on a matter of principle, stick to your principles; resist the urge to make personal attacks on former colleagues.
Don’t play hide and seek in the days, or weeks, before resigning; it merely encourages speculation, and diminishes the “shock and awe” impact that your resignation has.
Don’t go telling tales “out of school” to the media, about events that happened several years in the past. This merely diminishes your personal brand value to that of a B list celebrity; whose only source of publicity are appearances on fatuous reality TV programmes.
In short, if you really do have principles then stick to them; otherwise your resignation will have all the impact of a “busted flush”.