The Sketch: It's our fault we lost a champion of immigrants

Click to follow
The Independent Online

When ministers resign we have to struggle against the impulse to be magnanimous. Sometimes it's impossible; in the case of Beverley Hughes - who provided the Commons with the single most nauseating display of the century - there was no contest. We always enjoy the chance to sing the Sketch's collegiate song: "Nauseamus Igitur!" So let us begin.

When ministers resign we have to struggle against the impulse to be magnanimous. Sometimes it's impossible; in the case of Beverley Hughes - who provided the Commons with the single most nauseating display of the century - there was no contest. We always enjoy the chance to sing the Sketch's collegiate song: "Nauseamus Igitur!" So let us begin.

Ms Hughes's resignation speech - a model of manipulative self-exculpation - concluded with the hope that we could recognise "the contribution immigrants have made to the country". She had begun in the same way, saying that the issue of immigration aroused intense feelings because it related to the "identity of the country". The sub-text to this - picked up instantly by her party - was that she was a champion of asylum-seekers, and that her ministerial career had been cut off in its prime by racially motivated, ethnic-cleansing xenophobes. And how she managed it I'm not sure, but we also got a message that she'd been persecuted because she was a woman. This might have been the doughnut of sisterly solidarity that she parked herself in when she sat down.

As she rose, I mentioned to a colleague: "You know it's all our fault, don't you?" And yes, the first words out of her mouth referred to "sustained criticism in Parliament and the media". I hope you're all ashamed of yourselves!

There has been criticism it's true, but it now seems to have understated the case. None the less she told us how proud she was of her achievements, that she had done her best, that she had always behaved honestly, that nothing was more important to her than her integrity, and that she was resigning because she was determined to set the highest possible standards for those in public life.

Down, down, my rising gorge! Struggle, please, to remember that she fought like a spitting cat at every step of the way to deny responsibility for any of this. She presided over and was frequently alerted to systemic breakdowns in her department; fraud was condoned; comically inadequate applications were waved through; officials wrote to her office about the scams; and a close colleague told her personally what was going on. Her consistent defence in Parliament has been: "I knew nothing."

David Blunkett yelled across the dispatch boxes at Prime Minister's Questions: "We didn't know!" Over the next week or two we'll find out whether that's true. It certainly wasn't true in Beverley's case. And if Beverley knew, why didn't Blunkett know?

The Prime Minister said something ominous in his monthly press conference: "Was it a mistaken view taken in good faith? Or a deliberate permission of fraudulent claims. That would be a very different order of seriousness."

Simoncarr75@hotmail.com

Comments