Belfast Telegraph

To lose one Cabinet minister is unfortunate... to lose three in a few weeks is beginning to look careless

By Mark Steel

The charm of this Government is the imaginative and diverse ways they find for having to resign. That's three in a few weeks, for a variety of reasons that make politics fun.

Now, we should guess the next one and I reckon it will be Boris Johnson for torturing a panda by giving it bamboo covered in chilli powder and filming it on his phone as it hops about and puts its paws in yoghurt to cool down. Then it will be Amber Rudd for selling a rocking horse on eBay that turns out to be full of nuclear waste.

There's an art to resigning from this Government and Damian Green is highly skilled in it. The trick is to make the reasons so obscure that no one can understand why you've resigned at all.

So his statement is something like: "I repeat that I have done nothing illegal, or deceitful, or improper, or said anything untrue, but in regard to the statement I made to the public I have, in a literal and historical sense, said words that were deliberately made-up and, as this falls outside the high standards set by code of conduct clause 3b, must regretfully resign despite being perfect."

The one fault he admits to is saying things that were "misleading". But he's being too harsh on himself. He said there was no porn on his computer and the police entirely made up that there was porn on his computer, when in fact he knew there was porn on his computer and he knew the police hadn't made up that there was porn on his computer. So, it's only that he got "is" mixed up with "isn't" and "did" mixed up with "didn't".

The other side to his perfect behaviour he's had to resign for were the approaches he made towards Kate Maltby: for example, a text saying, "Having admired you in a corset in my favourite tabloid, I feel impelled to ask you for a drink."

As a good Tory, he was clearly referring to an intended discussion about the potential benefits to the British economy in the corset industry.

He says he doesn't recognise the incidents she describes and this seems fair enough, because none of us can remember every time we tell someone we feel impelled to ask them for a drink on account of having seen them in a corset in their favourite tabloid.

Most people round my way send texts such as, "Hello, Mrs Mulligan, as I saw you in a bra and suspenders in the paper today, I feel impelled to ask you for a drink", to the lollipop lady every morning, then instantly forget we've done it.

It's just a shame that ministers of the Crown are held to higher standards than the rest of us.

Conservative-supporting newspapers reacted to Kate Maltby's story with articles such as the one that declared: "Kate Maltby claims to be an intellectual historian, but wrote that she found herself posing in her underwear."

And that's a fair point, because the first mark of an intellectual historian is they never pose in their underwear.

Whenever I see a picture of someone posing in their underwear in a tabloid, my first thought is, "Well, I'm not listening to anything they have to say about the Treaty of Versailles."

One interpretation of these events, from several commentators, is that sacking Damian Green "proves the Prime Minister is strong". If this is true, she should sack all of them and prove she's almighty.

This is why, when three people resign in disgrace from the board of a major company in the space of six weeks, everyone invests in them because it's a sign that everything's going wonderfully.

Some might suggest the resignations aren't mainly about porn, or illicit meetings on holiday, or putting your hands on someone's knee, but a consequence of having believed your ideology was triumphant and you'd rule unchallenged for decades, but at the election discovered this wasn't true.

So, you don't know what you stand for and don't know how to present anything, you fight among yourselves, especially over Europe, and bumble from one day to the next.

Belfast Telegraph

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