What does it really mean to be accountable for one’s actions?


As I wrote yesterday, one of the comments that came from Dominic Cummings who is working directly for the Prime Minister of our Nation related to his claim that he should be made accountable for his actions. He stated “I wanted to explain what I thought, what I did and why over this period because I think the people like me who helped to make the rules should be accountable for their actions.” The challenge with such an approach by a Special Adviser who is not technically accountable to anyone but his boss is not all that different to the challenge for MPs and Ministers who present their accountability as relating to when they get voted for which of course rarely makes a difference. Of course we do occasionally see or hear from a Minister that resigns and perhaps occasionally an MP will agree to step down at the next General Election or even create a by-election. On one or two occasions MPs have been removed such as Neil Hamilton who was replaced by Martin Bell who I met on one occasions and who I would be very happy to see returned as an MP. Sadly he did not stand again and George Osborne inevitably beat all of the others and then so did Esther McVey although none of them have matched Martins vote proportion since. However apart from such rare examples unless someone is willing to resign or offer to resign what else is possible, particularly if they are not willing to apologise which Dominic Cummings did not do. One of the journalists was a lady called Nicola who asked this question:

QMost people that me and my colleagues here have spoken to did not think what you did was within the rules, regardless of whether they had the opportunity to make such a journey. You know there are single parents who have had COVID-19 and had to care for even younger children than you. Because that is the situation that they found themselves in and they were following the advice issued from this building. How can you not feel apologetic towards them for undermining the rules that you helped to create?

AWell Obviously I feel extreme sympathy for single Mums who would have been in such a terrible situation, but all I can do is repeat what I said before…….. If both of us had been in that situation then we would have needed help and in that scenario what would have been best for everybody? Would it have been best for a 17 year old niece to walk 50m and look after our child or would it have been best for me to have been here and calling 999? I think that what I did was the most reasonable thing in the circumstances given that my nieces and my sister had very kindly said if there was an emergency we’ll help.

What we can be sure about is that his accountability does not mean a great deal except that as the Cambridge Definition states:

the fact of being responsible for what you do and able to give a satisfactory reason for it, or the degree to which this happens:

So on this basis he has given reasons, which although many of us do not consider them to be satisfactory, he seems to think they are and in terms of his responsibility he has said that any change is in the hands of his boss, so perhaps our expectation of accountability is not as accurate as many of us have thought? On the other hand if many people think he is not given us satisfactory responses then perhaps it is now that his boss needs to be accountable?

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
This entry was posted in Justice Issues, Parliament and Democracy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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