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Ministerial Responsibility

The Plastic Gangster makes a very reasoned argument about Hoon and mentions my view that he has "blood on his hands" - to quote: "To suggest at this stage that Geoff Hoon personally has Sgt. Roberts "blood on his hands" is a dangerous game and one that should not be embarked upon, even if danger is your thing, until the facts of the Roberts case have become clear. Which, at the time of typing, they haven't."

- as a note I'm responding here because there is no comment section on his website.

I accept that I have my Mr. Angry hat on when blogging and I don't spend the time to construct reasoned argument like Mr.Plastic. But in this case I think it stands up. Mr Hoon enjoys the privileges, status and money of being a Minister fro Defence. No one disputes the bare facts that our service men were not as well equipped as they should have been for various cock-up reasons. This probably contributed to at least one mans death. If you are at the top you should take responsibility for what happens, the excuse that you didn't know, or couldn't do anything about it doesn't wash. (I would also say I believe this is true in commerce as well and that company directors should take the same view). This responsibility is purely moral, it is not the same as taking legal responsibility. I also believe Hoon would have been respected for taking that responsibility and resigning. It would also have been a comfort to the bereaved. Hoon would then be considered to be an honourable man with a future back on the front benches in a year or so. But the more he hangs on the more damaging and humiliating it will be for him.

But I also accept his sins are minor in many ways and resigning is more a symbolic act than an act of real substance. And so the case isn't as clear cut as it might be. But I believe it would be best and right for everyone if he went.


I think of it as the Reverse Nurenberg defence: 'They weren't carrying out my orders'. It's a bizzarre argument, relying as it does on the idea that Hoon shouldn't be blamed simply because he was too incompetent to do the job for which he was being paid.

So it is the responsibility of the Minister of Defence to personally ensure that a given NCO has his flak jacket? Is this taking centralisation a little too far?

Quite, and if you had to choose to allocate scarce equipment among soldiers, would you really be giving ceramic plates to tank commanders? I bet that most tankers would have left their plates back at base, perhaps thinking either that a Challenger would suffice as protection or that tanks needn't do crowd control.

In any case, the idea that Mrs Roberts should enjoy any special status as a commentator because of her loss is just wierd. It's a sad case, but she is no better qualified to speak than any other tanker's spouse - that is, not at all.

The point isn't the one unfortunate case - it is the widespread and systematic failure to supply the proper kit to people you ask to do a dangerous job. If a buiding firm fails to supply enough hard hats to its workers and one dies the charge of corporate manslaughter can be brought - this is the same.

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