Leading Article: Stand by your man

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IN 1963, John Profumo, Secretary of State for War, resigned after lying to the Commons about his relationship with Christine Keeler, who had also been sleeping with a Soviet military attache. In 1973, Lord Lambton, a junior defence minister in the Heath government, resigned after being photographed in bed with two prostitutes and fined for drug offences. In 1982, Lord Carrington resigned as Foreign Secretary because his department was considered to have provided inadequate intelligence about Argentina's intentions towards the Falkland Islands.

In 1992, Norman Lamont, Chancellor of the Exchequer, remains in office after presiding over a U-turn in the Government's economic policy and losing pounds 1bn of taxpayers' money trying to defend the pound. David Mellor is still Secretary of State for National Heritage after having an affair with a publicity-seeking actress and accepting hospitality and services from two friends, Mona Bauwens, and Elliott Bernerd, a property developer.

Many have been asking: what must a minister do to be fired? Scroll forward to 1999. The scene is the office of the prime minister's principal press secretary, Phil Anderer.

Anderer: The PM deplores the suggestion in several papers this morning that the Secretary of State for National Regeneration, Fred Wriggle, was out of order in accepting a week's hospitality in a brothel in Amsterdam. He was there on behalf of the Commons' committee on drug abuse. It was natural that his researches should take him to the red light district; and he would have been falling down on the job had he not asked the local residents to share their experiences with him.

Daily Mirror man: Couldn't he have paid out of expenses, rather than accepting the hospitality of Amsterdam's leading brothel owner?

Anderer: Corneliusz Hustinxx is an old friend of the Secretary of State. How Cabinet ministers respond to their friends' generosity is not the PM's business.

The Times: Can we establish whether there is any connection with the appointment of Slobodan Priapic, the exiled former president of the Greater Serbian Republic, to be Life President of the Cotswold Industrial Development Board, and a long holiday which the Secretary of State took two years ago in the Serbian resort of Sveti Pitz, with Mr Priapic's daughter?

Anderer: No connection is known.

The Independent: What says the PM to reports that Fred used pounds 100,000-worth of departmental funds to buy marks hours before last week's currency realignment?

Anderer: Both the PM and our partners in Berlin saw it as a heartening expression of confidence in the future of the mark.

The Guardian: In short, no resignation?

Anderer: The PM prides himself on the collegiate spirit of the Cabinet. He stands by his colleagues, as they would stand by him.

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