Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Ed Davey should go easy on calling for people to resign

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Sir Ed Davey, leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrats, has faced harsh criticism this week for his role in the Horizon IT scandal, after it was revealed that he failed to act on claims that sub-postmasters were being wrongly accused of theft and false accounting by the Post Office. 

note Anna Gross and Rafe Uddin on the Financial Times website. They go on to say that the blame should be shared far more widely,

But experts and campaigners say that members of all three main political parties could have done more to address claims over the nearly two-decade scandal that has ruined hundreds of lives.

Seventeen ministers have been responsible for the postal service brief since the flawed Horizon system was rolled out to Post Office branches under a Labour administration in 2000.

It was only following a landmark 2019 Court of Appeal case that the Post Office’s leadership was forced to concede that there were systemic issues with the Horizon system. It took several months before then prime minister Boris Johnson committed to an independent public inquiry into what has become one of Britain’s biggest miscarriages of justice.

As a party leader, Davey is bound to attract more interest than the other 16 ministers who once had responsibility for the Post Office. How many of them are still public names?

But one telling point has been brought to light by this criticism of Ed. He is remarkably keen on calling for other people to resign. By one journalist's calculation, he has used Twitter to demand someone else walk the plank 32 times.

You can say that a lot more Tories should have resigned in recent years and that leaders of smaller parties can't be too squeamish about what they have to do to catch the interest of the media.

But I wonder if this enthusiasm for demanding resignations is a consequence of Liberal Democrat determination to fight the next general election as a series of by-elections.

Many of the problems Britain faces are deep and systemic, but it's hard to convey that - and the Lib Dem solutions to them - in a set of three bullet points and a reminder that Labour can't win here. Calls for a minister to resign, however, fit neatly into that format.

But we must be careful  those bullet points don't become the sum total of our thinking.

I suspect one result of this week's surge of interest in the Post Office Horizon scandal will be that Ed makes fewer calls for others' resignations, if only because of the response they will now meet with.

And, after the general election, we must rediscover the idea of building up a core Lib Dem vote. This will have to involve talking about our ideas, rather than just exclaiming at the awfulness of the Tories.


nigel hunter said...

Those ideas should come to the fore NOW not wait till the next election.As we are only slowly creeping up in the opinion polls we should change tac NOW to sell the future as a LibDem one.

Anonymous said...

Wot Nigel said, +1.

Anthony Acton said...

I'm afraid this is just going to get worse and worse for Ed.

Anonymous said...

He's his own worst enemy. I was afraid his baggage would catch up with him, and it looks like it has.