Friday, 29 April 2016

Radio Review: 29 April

The search for scapegoats is usefully scrutinised

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-colour-176When things go wrong in modern life, the search for someone to blame begins almost immediately. Something must be done, heads must roll, etc. Next Tuesday on Radio 4 at 8pm, The Blame Game is about whether heads always have to roll. Baroness Manningham-Buller, former head of MI 5 and daughter of the man Bernard Levin called Sir Reginald Bullying-Manner, argues we are too quick to blame in a society that demands perfection.

She begins with an example from her own experience: the flak taken by MI 5 after the London bombings of 7 July 2005. She admits that ‘the ones you don’t stop haunt you’, but highlights an unreasonable expectation that everything is stoppable. An MI 5 officer argues that incidents must not be seen as intelligence failures if all that could have been done has been done.

Fair enough, but then she speaks to former head of Haringey social services Sharon Shoesmith, who was dismissed after the death of Baby P; surely hers was a necessary defenestration? The tribunal that found she had been unfairly dismissed and scapegoated disagreed. Shoesmith argues that because of the anonymity of the perpetrators, she became the face of the situation.

Asked to guarantee that it couldn’t happen again, Shoesmith found there was no way she could, and was condemned for it.

There are some good insights from the former Cabinet Secretary Lord O’Donnell. He argues that parliamentary select committees highlight only failure, and members play up to the media’s appetite for blame in their questioning.

This is a timely look at the clash of expectations and human fallibility.

Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email:

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