Ethics Hero: Lord Michael Bates

Lord Michael Bates, Britain’s international development minister, was set to answer questions before the British House of Lords on yesterday, but arrived to the session a few minutes late for his scheduled Q and A session. When it concluded, Lord Bates rushed  up to the lectern,  and said,

“It’s been my privilege to answer questions from this despatch box on behalf of the government. I’ve always believed we should rise to the highest possible standards of courtesy and respect in responding on behalf of the government to the legitimate questions of the legislature. I’m thoroughly ashamed of not being in my place and therefore I shall be offering my resignation to the prime minister with immediate effect.”

With that, he walked out of the chamber .

Bravo. Promptness and punctuality demonstrates respect for one’s colleagues and professional duties, and holding oneself to the highest standards of conduct is the epitome of ethical public service.

Afterwards, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said:

“With typical sincerity, Lord Bates today offered to tender his resignation, but his resignation was refused as it was judged this was unnecessary.As a hard-working and diligent minister, it is typical of his approach that he takes his responsibilities to Parliament so seriously. He has received support from across the House and we are pleased he has decided to continue in his important roles at the Department for International Development and HM Treasury.”

Dear Lord Bates: please come to America and run for Congress, They need you. We need you.


8 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Lord Michael Bates

  1. Forget putting him in Congress, let’s put his Lordship in charge of the DOJ and the FBI so he can say something along the lines of “It’s been my privilege to answer questions from this [Congressional oversight committee] on behalf of the [executive branch of our] government. I’ve always believed we should rise to the highest possible standards of courtesy and respect in responding on behalf of the government to the legitimate questions of the legislature.”

    Wouldn’t that be curiously refreshing.

  2. Does this not seem like showmanship, though? He couldn’t possibly have expected his resignation to be accepted over arriving a few minutes late to a Q&A. This smacks of those people who will do a rude but relatively minor thing and then self-flagellates with “oh, I’m a horrible person, I deserve to be hated” until everyone rushes to comfort them and tell them they’re NOT horrible and it wasn’t such a big deal- and in the hubbub, the initial rude act is washed away.

    • It does seem a bit showy. My first thought was, “Man, this guy hates his job!”. My second thought was how much fun Monty Python could have had with this…”My failure to hold the elevator for the Lord Chancellor was inexcusable rudeness, and I forfeit all of my estates to him in a poor attempt to redress my horrific breach of courtesy”, becoming progressively more absurd.

      • In a riff on the classic Cheese Shop sketch punchline (“Do you have any cheese? No? Then I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I’ll have to kill you.”) it would, of course, need to end with the PM calling a meeting to address the rash of excessive displays of guilt and belching as he called the meeting to order, then pulling out a gun and placing it to his temple. Snap cut to black with gunshot effect, giant cartoon foot, and now for something completely different.

    • Being cynical in nature, my first thought was his gesture in resigning was a bit ‘grand’. However, it’s more of a testament to my nature than his. Since his resignation could have been accepted, I think we have to accept that he was sincere. It wasn’t accepted, but that’s hardly his fault, and shouldn’t dismiss the fact that he offered it.

  3. Because the House of Lords remains an anachronism in the UK, this is a personal, not institutional, statement. All members of the House of Lords realize that they are in fact an anachronism, that they wield no real power, and that — powerless — they are simply a holdover from the concept of by-birth aristocracy and the Constitutional Monarchy. (If only Nicholas of Russia had taken this approach, 100 years of world history would be different.)

    In fairness. George VI worked closely with MI6, the American OSS and Nelson Rockefeller (spying is in the bailiwick of the Monarch) to keep the Nazis out of South America. While it can be argued that Nelson wanted only to protect his investments there, historical records do show that he took great risks investigating Nazi insurgence into South America.

    So there are honorable Lords. On the other hand, I have long been a fan of the PG Wodehouse/Bertie Wooster/Jeeves view of that segment of UK society. Don’t get me wrong: if I could go back in time I’d surely be the horrid Aunt Agatha, and go after the ne’er do well Bertie at every turn.

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