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Japanese minister resigns over 'easy job' gaffe

After a furore over the minister's quip that his job was easy, The National looks at other public figures' gaffes over the years which have led to resignations.

Japanese Justice Minister Minoru Yanagida bows deeply as he announces his resignation.
Japanese Justice Minister Minoru Yanagida bows deeply as he announces his resignation.

Japan's justice minister resigned today after his quip that his job was easy sparked howls of outrage and threats of parliamentary stalling tactics from the conservative opposition.

Centre-left Prime Minister Naoto Kan - whose media poll ratings have dived into the mid 20-per cent range - accepted the resignation of the minister, Minoru Yanagida, who had been in the job for just two months.

Yanagida, 56, sparked the storm when he joked last week that "being justice minister is easy as I only have to remember two phrases, either of which I can use in parliament whenever I'm stuck for an answer".

He told local supporters in Hiroshima prefecture that the two phrases were: "I refrain from commenting on individual cases" and "I am acting appropriately based on the law and evidence."

The conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) - which was ousted last year after a half-century reign - lashed out at the remarks, saying they were insulting to the Diet legislature.

Lawmakers had planned a non-binding but embarrassing censure motion and, more worryingly for the government, had planned to block new economic stimulus measures in the upper house, reports said.

A vote against the bill to help fund a 60 billion dollar stimulus in the upper chamber would delay its passage by at least 30 days, after which the lower house automatically overrides the upper house on budget bills.

Yanagida suggested at a press conference that he didn't have much of a choice other than to resign after Kan had told him that "we have to definitely pass the supplementary budget as soon as possible".

Yanagida became the first minister to step down since Kan reshuffled his cabinet in mid-September, shortly after his re-election as president of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

Kan's right-hand man, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, said he would perform the duties of justice minister for the time being.

The incident is likely to fuel accusations of incompetence against the young DPJ government, which is already fending off criticism that it mishandled diplomatic rows with China and Russia.

The latest opinion poll published Monday by the Mainichi Shimbun said public support for Kan's cabinet had plunged to a new low of 26 per cent, down a steep 23 points from October.

Asked about Yanagida's comments, 71 percent of voters said he should resign.

 

Gaffes through the years

Last week Lord Young, a trade adviser to David Cameron said in an interview that Britons had "never had it so good". This provoked outrage at a time when Britain is recovering from a recession, suffering high unemployment and is about to embark on a round of swinging public spending cuts. Hours after his comments emerged, Lord Young resigned.

In 1999 the manager of the England football team Glenn Hoddle was forced to resign after misjudged commnets he made in a newspaper interview. In the interview, Hoddle made remarks which were interpreted as suggesting disabled people were being made to pay for the sins of past lives.

Gerald Ratner was forced to resign several years after he made a speech which did lasting damage to his nationwide chain of jewellers. Mr Ratner referred to certain items of jewellery he stocked as 'crap' and said the earrings were "cheaper than a prawn sandwich" The incident has since becaome a textbook case in business schools of how not to manage the image of a company.

British health minister Edwina Currie infuriated the egg industry and caused sales of eggs to plunge in 1988. She provoked outrage by saying most of Britain's egg production was infected with the salmonella bacteria. She survived for several weeks but as the furore over her comments grew, she eventually had to resign.