In 2001, in a last attempt to persuade people that he wasn’t corrupt over a minor paperwork error around his constituency office, Henry McLeish told the Scottish Parliament that the mistake was “a muddle, not a fiddle”. Literally everyone in Scottish politics agreed with him – it really was small error, not corruption. Yet he was forced out of power anyway.
This paperwork error involved a few thousand pounds accidentally double-claimed over office expenses. The scandals surrounding the Scottish Government just now make this error seem even more trivial than it seemed at the time. We need some kind of framework to help us understand the implications of these scandals.
So, to entertain you over a bank holiday weekend, let’s play ‘Fiddle or Muddle’. I’ll provide you with three cases of massive government failure and you get to decide whether it is an honest error or whether something else may be going on.