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rupert murdoch
private conversations
private detective
members of parliament
Why Are Public Figures So Reluctant To Take Responsibility
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Well it had to happen. News International owners of News of the World has finally admitted what had become clear some time ago that there was more than one rogue reporter and private detective involved in the phone hacking scandal which dominated the news last week.

It appears now that others were involved in what amounts to a systematic practice to listen to the private conversations of celebrities, politicians and their employees, and the previous internal investigation was flawed. No doubt there is more information to come out and if you’re not already tired of the story we probably soon will be.

Realising they were in real trouble Rupert Murdoch’s organisation have moved swiftly to try and minimise any further damage by admitting liability and putting aside an eye- watering 20million pounds in a compensation fund. As expected Murdoch is accused of trying to ‘buy his way out of trouble’. Whether he succeeds or not, only time will tell.

What I find most interesting about the story is how awkwardly News International have handled the entire saga, and this is from a man who is known to be absolutely ruthless in his business dealings. As far as I’m aware that has been no word from the great man himself, in fact no word from any named person. It’s the Media Group who appears to have offered an apology. The organisation has reportedly apologised to Sienna Miller (actress) and Tessa Jowell MP , so I wonder whether they managed to offer an apology with a personal touch.

As well as their total bungling of the situation, the thing that stands out for me is that all along no one seemed to want to take responsibility for what happened. But why should I be surprised? Failing to take responsibility seems to be a common trait amongst the great and the good!

This is why the outrage expressed by Members of Parliament and the House of Lords, who have said people must go to prison, smacks of opportunism and political grandstanding. They must be delighted to have a few days when the pressure is off them. MPs are very keen on people taking responsibility for themselves. This is the whole premise of David Cameron’s Big Society initiative. However, when MPs make such pronouncements they are talking about ‘the pubic’ not themselves.

Never has there been a clearer example of lack of responsibility than the scandal of the MPs expenses. When it first emerged, almost without exception the MP’s ran for cover and variously blamed it on the hapless staff in the Fees Office, staff in their constituency offices, other MP’s, ‘the rules’ and/or their spouses and of course we mustn’t forget ‘the media’.

Now I know the media can be blamed for a lot of things, but they weren’t holding MP’s hands when they filled out their expenses forms. Most MPs had the gall to adopt a “Nothing to do with me” approach and a few said they had made a “ mistake“, all genuine” ones of course.

Unfortunately for the MPs, it was all a little too late. The damage had been done. Just like Murdoch and the phone hacking after initial denials, protestations of innocence and in some instances bare-faced lies from MPs, the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, eventually moved to bring the whole story to a sorry end. He declared that some MPs would have to pay money back (some refused to do so), there would be a new era of openness (not really), there would be a new system (which the MPs are now busying changing) and a new person in charge (who has already left).

From then on, every time a reporter had the temerity to mention the story,the Prime Minister said 'it was time to move on'. Of course it was! It always is. From Newspaper Proprietors, Politicians from Bank Chiefs to Hospital Chiefs or Police Constables, it’s very rarely they appear to take responsibility and even if they admit liability as News International have done, they admit them on a very limited basis. (News International have declared they are not going to apologise to everyone!)

You probably think that I have no sympathy for anyone in public life who refuses to take responsibility for their failures, but actually I do. Their ‘mistakes’ are played out in a public arena and whatever they do there will always be sections of the public or press and me saying they’ve got it wrong.

So what about the rest of us? When we’re amused at the predicaments of these public figures, do we ever consider how much responsibility we take for our own actions or how open we are about the mistakes we make in our own working lives? It’s probably a question we should be asking ourselves occasionally. I know when I think about the answer to that question certain memories make me blush.

Street Talk

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