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1 April, 2004

Lamb sacrificed

The immigration minister, Beverley Hughes has resigned over the scandal of fraudulent immigration applications from Romania and Bulgaria.  So, the minister has gone, which plainly wipes the slate clean and makes everything perfectly fine again.  Doesn't it?

I haven't been following every detail of this issue, but I don't really see how Ms. Hughes can be considered personally responsible for the fraud, which was conducted at an operational level rather than as a matter of flawed top-level policy.  Presumably those who actually perpetrated the fraud will continue in their jobs as normal.

Putting aside this specific instance, one of the aspects of politics and its media coverage I find particularly dispiriting is the desire to ascribe blame and score points in the adversarial game. Something goes wrong, someone simply has to go. Irrespective of whether a person is genuinely and personally at fault, and whether the consequent disruption to a department's activities is really justified, the mob has to see blood, and someone has to be seen to be sacrificed. Then the story can be forgotten and other issues sensationalised.

Another example: in early February, University of Wales Swansea announced plans to close five departments. The immediate knee-jerk response from the AUT was to call for the resignation of the new Vice-Chancellor. The VC, Prof. Richard Davies, was a Pro-VC of Lancaster University until a few months ago - he's been in his current post for a matter of weeks. Would it make some sense to work with him a little longer, to build a working relationship which might benefit the University as a whole? No, there must be a scapegoat. The departments would go anyway, the relationship between administrators and lecturers would become more confrontational, and there'd be less opportunity for consensual restructuring of the University.
But someone would have lost his job, so that's all okay, then.

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