Doing the decent thing:
the lessons of history
MICHAEL MATES HAS done the decent thing and walked the plank, but most of us would have been more impressed if he had taken the plunge earlier. There is little sense of honour in his going. It came a bit too late for that.
He appears to have followed more in the footsteps of a Mellor than a Carrington, who resigned over the invasion of the Falklands. Lord Carrington, of course, had a more lofty view of public service.
At one time, not so very long ago, most Ministers would automatically have known when to resign and did not need to be pushed. But what is more, most Prime Ministers knew when to fire or demand resignations.
Clement Attlee was a classic case in point. As the leader of the first proper Labour Government in 1945 he knew the danger of impropriety to an administration.
In 1947 Hugh Dalton, the loquacious Chancellor of the Exchequer, had to resign, not because of some fiscal scandal, but because of a daft indiscretion to a political correspondent. He had technically broken the rules. He went.
If Dalton's indiscretion had been committed today he would presumably have stayed on at No 11. Attlee's way may have been stern, but I prefer it to the laissez faire attitude of John Major when Ministers fall from grace. Attlee, like Major, knew his cricket backwards.
It should not therefore take the Prime Minister long to learn that trying to sneak seven balls into a sixball over should be a hanging offence.
THERE IS MUCH head-shaking and soul-searching among the square-eyed pundits over the virtual decision to move News at Ten to some earlier time in the evening. I shall regret such a move, but only for the personal reason that I always associate the ten booms of Big Ben with the days when Reginald Bosanquet was a newscaster. He gave the news a frisson and freshness that it has lacked on both channels since his early death.
Meanwhile there are dastardly plans afoot at the BBC's Nine O'Clock News to replace the smugly competent Martyn Lewis with the soporific Peter Sissons.
Not much good will come of it all. Both the BBC and ITN should be searching instead for another Bosanquet.
READING ALAN Clark's Diaries has not been for me the great experience that it has been for others, although there are some good plums in the pudding. What was a surprise was not his facile denigration of his friends and colleagues, but his generous remarks about Dennis Skinner, the left-wing Labour MP and scourge of the Establishment.
On 24 June 1983 Clark was asked by Sir Robert Armstrong whom he most admired in the Commons. Clark replied: "Dennis Skinner."
In his entry for 25 January 1984 Clark writes: "Things were going quite well this morning (in Committee) until it had a slight skid, revealing that I didn't know what GMBATU stood for.
Dennis Skinner (you've got to hand it to him, he's so quick on the ball) raised it at Questions on the floor, later. I affected blandness."
Only Alan Clark could, I imagine, be bland about the General Municipal Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union.