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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Taking responsibility

I think everybody was shocked last night at the decision of BBC Director General, George Entwhistle to resign over the botched Newsnight handling of sex abuse allegations. Mr. Entwhistle went despite the fact that he apparently had little or no knowledge of the Newsnight investigation or of the fact that the programme was to apologise for wrongfully implicating a senior Tory in the affair.

It was the correct and honourable thing to do and his decision may have wider repercussions for other senior figures in the BBC, including its chair who, being a former politician, will not be used to having to take personal responsibility so far.

And this is the point. The last Government Minister I can recall taking responsibilty in this way and resigning was Lord Carrington over the invasion of the Falklands. Newspaper editors are no different. As has already been pointed out on Twitter there was no rush of tabloid Editors resigning over their wrongful vilification of an innocent man in a recent Bristol murder case.

And will this mean that Ministers will now have to take responsibility for the actions of their civil servants, even though they may not have been told what they were doing at the time? Will the Welsh Education Minister now have to resign because his officials agreed the new regime on GCSEs, which he later condemned and was forced to unpick by having exams re-marked? Will the Welsh Equalies Minister now have to be held accountable for a decade of failure on the part of civil servants with regards to AWEMA?

I am not holding my breath.

Let us not forget that amongst all this controversy, the real story is that of the victims of child abuse. We should not allow process issues and poor judgement on the part of journalists and managers to distract us from their suffering and the need to ensure that we get justice for them.
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