Thursday, March 02, 2006

Letter and Spirit

Here's a little bit more about the right honourable liar Tessa Jowell.

In the foreword to the ministerial code, Tony Blair wrote "I will expect all Ministers to work within the letter and spirit of the Code". But what does the ministerial code (pdf) actually say? Here are selected highlights from the section concerning ministers private interests.
General principle
5.1 Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests, financial or otherwise.

Responsibility for avoiding a conflict
5.2 [U]ltimately it is the responsibility of Ministers individually to order their own private lives in such a way as to avoid criticism, and the final decision about what action to take to achieve that is theirs.

5.3 The list should cover not only the Minister’s personal interests but those of a spouse or partner, of children who are minors, of trusts of which the Minister or a spouse or partner is a trustee or beneficiary, or of closely associated persons. The list should cover all kinds of interest including financial instruments and partnerships, financial interests such as unincorporated businesses and real estate, as well as relevant non-financial private interests such as links with outside organisations, and previous relevant employment.
It seems to me that even if you were to believe her ridiculous claim that she was not aware that her husdand received a gift on £344,000, it still wouldn't be a valid defence for what has happened. Jowell was aware, or should have been aware, that she needed to declare any substantial gifts received by her husband. This didn't happen in this case. There are the only three reasons I can think of.
  1. She knew this, told her husband, but he intentionally hid the gift from her while knowing it could cause her future embarrassment and possibly worse.
  2. She did not know this and is now trying to cover up her ignorance.
  3. She knew this, her husband did tell her about the gift, but she decided not to declare it anyway.
Any other options? She's claiming option 1. I'm just able to resist a cheap jibe about the state of her marriage. If she is marrried to a person who is prepare to lie to her in this way, perhaps she should be worried about taking ministerial boxes back to the family home. There's stuff in there which dishonest people (ministers notwithstanding) shouldn't see.

Anyway, the point is that it doesn't matter which option is the truth. It is the responsibility of Ministers individually to order their own private lives in such a way as to avoid criticism. Only a fool or a crook would judge that Tessa Jowell has fulfilled this responsibility.

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