Mark Oaten’s three-point test for ‘scandal’ resignations

by Stephen Tall on June 7, 2008

Former Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten writes in today’s Guardian about the ever-present question: when does ‘scandal’ in an individual’s private life prevent them from undertaking public duties? Describing privacy as “a fluid concept”, Mark suggests

we can apply a simple three-point test.

1) Has the person broken the law? If this has happened, a person’s position is untenable.

2) Is the individual guilty of hypocrisy? If someone preaches against a certain act or way of life, and is caught doing the same thing, it’s hard to have much sympathy. Look at Eliot Spitzer, the former New York governor. Calls for his resignation following his involvement with prostitutes are more justified when we consider his campaigning against prostitution.

3) Do the individual’s actions invite blackmail or show a total lack of judgment? This is the hardest question to answer because it’s more subjective than the others. I recognise in my case I made a grave error of judgment which is why I resigned. But to be honest I was so shattered by the whole experience that the thought of continuing didn’t appeal.

Do you agree? What criteria would you draw up?