Nearly 50 years ago, minister Sir Thomas Dugdale resigned over a mistake made by his civil servants, an incident known as the Crichel Down affair.
Lord Carrington was a junior minister in Sir Thomas's department and he himself resigned as Foreign Secretary when the Falklands were invaded.
Fast forward to 2012, and this time it is three civil servants who are suspended over the West Coast rail franchise affair. So much for ministerial responsibility; so much for doing the honourable thing and taking the blame for the mistakes of officials.
So, in this new order, who takes the blame for mistakes in our world of dentistry?
Who took the blame for UDAs in 2006? Who is taking the blame for the Foundation Dentist fiasco where dentists trained primarily to work in the NHS are denied the opportunity on the basis of a single interview?
The answer is no one is held to account for these errors, not ministers, not civil servants. Of course, politics being what it is, the current crop of ministers will blame their predecessors in 2006 for the errors of that contract.
Will they take the blame when the manifest errors in the new contract currently being piloted, come to the surface, probably in 2015 or later? Or will they be blamed by new ministers from another party?
There was a musical many years ago called ‘Stop the World – I Want To Get Off’. That’s how dentistry is beginning to feel.
By Michael Watson, Dentistry news correspondent