LEADING ARTICLE:Why he was right to resign

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The Independent Online
Time to get off the high horse. The resignation of Rupert Pennant- Rea as deputy governor of the Bank of England yesterday was not the result of tabloid intrusion, but the consequence of his own bad judgement. He was right to resign.

Many people will reject this reasoning. They will argue that the sexual proclivities of a minister, executive or newspaper leader writer are no one else's business. Such private matters tell you nothing about how fit a person is for governing, managing or pontificating. Only the News of the World and Peter Tatchell could think otherwise, they say. Look at Asquith - used to write steamy love-letters to Venetia Stanley during cabinet meetings - and he wasn't a bad PM. No, it is all got up to sell newspapers, without whom Mr Pennant-Rea would be with us still.

Mr Pennant-Rea's own letter of resignation suggests that this is his view of things, too. He had, he said, originally joined the Bank because of his desire to see British policy "escape from the cycle of inflationary fixes" and because he believed in mobility between the private and public sectors. Unfortunately, after his experience with the tabloids, "this reluctance to move will increase".

Apart from the unflattering picture of the private sector that this conjures up, on this occasion the argument will not wash. Had the deputy governor simply had an affair then his celebrity was not so great as to have attracted too much attention. The bonking banker would have made the inside pages of the more lurid papers and it would have been unpleasant, but bearable. The real problem is that Mr Pennant-Rea failed adequately to distinguish between the public world of the banker and the private realm of the lover. It is difficult to believe that it was an excess of counter-inflationary zeal that led him to conduct his affair on Bank of England premises. Yet it is this that really fuelled the story that brought him down.

It is not prissy to expect certain standards of behaviour at work, especially from those at the top. What would have been the reaction of Mr Pennant- Rea had he discovered his subordinates were using his office for their liaisons? Or are junior members of staff forbidden from sex on the job because they do not have big private offices? No, sex is an inappropriate activity at work. It was Mr Pennant-Rea who mixed the Bank up in his private life, not the tabloids.

There is another element in all this. That strange madness that seems to overcome men of a certain age is too widespread and well-documented to occasion genuine surprise. But powerful chaps must be increasingly aware that the days of maintaining a mistress, promising her the earth and then expecting her to fade into oblivion, clutching her solicitor's letter, are over. Women today have more self-respect than that and demand more. Ultimately it is arrogance, not the press, that is to blame for the downfall of Mr Pennant-Rea.