It is a simple question and it is one that John Swinney is no doubt pondering in private. For this has been no one-week crisis but a narrative played out over many months with probing questions being met with repeated ministerial assurances that the exams award system for 2020 would be fair and robust.
Yesterday’s climb-down was complete and as embarrassing as it gets for a politician in the mea culpa stakes.
Last week his defence of what he buried yesterday was, to use a favourite word of this crisis, ‘robust’. Even more robust was the First Minister’s defence in a BBC interview in which she seemed impatient and annoyed with the very suggestion the SQA had presided over a shambles rooted in injustice.
The apologies have been fulsome and the U-turn dizzying if only because the overall appearance is that saving face politically has been as much a factor as addressing injustice.
Having placed tens of thousands of young people in a state of abject fear, the impression that is given is that with a change of heart and a gorging on humble pie then we can now all move on.
Now the constant calls for ministers to quit can be a wearying business in the political world. Any aggrieved voter will inevitably call for a ministerial head and a public inquiry thrown in for good measure when they are the subject of perceived wrong doing.
Backbench parliamentarians no one has ever heard of make the resignation call hoping they will see their name in print. Front-benchers inevitably overuse it, most frequently when a story is running on empty.
But for once the calls are understandable. In a system of parliamentary accountability it is ministers who are answerable even for the incompetence of others that they have the ability to influence if not control.
In any system of scrutiny, where a minister signs off on a system which he or she subsequently admits is not fit for purpose, there has to be a sanction commensurate with the shambles of their creation.
In this context, if the exams crisis of 2020 is not a resignation issue for the cabinet secretary then what is? If there is no end-game beyond criticism in parliament then we may as well admit that the principles of scrutiny and accountability are but mere pawns in a game.
Minsters can get themselves into trouble for various reasons. Sometimes they are run by their civil servants particularly if they are lazy and are never on top of a problem. If they are naive or have no foresight as to how a developing issue might play out then that issue can come back and bite them where is hurts.
None of these shortcomings apply to John Swinney, a politician of huge experience with an instinctive feel for what could go wrong. And yet by his own admission, he failed. That failure was as serious as it gets on his watch and the consequence is that his authority is gone, completely and possibly forever.
There are moments when a politician becomes so wounded that their ability to do the job is disabled because they are ultimately defined, consumed and buried by the crisis they have sponsored.
This is never an edifying sight when applied to conscientious and hard working public servant like Swinney, but he is long enough in the tooth to know that by limping on he does so as a much diminished figure. If your authority goes as a minister your opponents scoff not merely in opposition but in jest. You cease to be taken seriously.
Now it looks likely that the education secretary will survive tomorrow’s vote of no confidence. The Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer says his party will vote with the Government to ensure John Swinney escapes parliamentary censure.
Greer is an impressive younger politician in a party who very quickly said to the Government, if you sort the crisis on our terms you have our support. Swinney it appears duly agreed.
The problem with the position of the Scottish Greens is that they see this as an injustice to be put right without ever embracing the concept that the sponsor of the injustice should be the subject of any meaningful sanction.
Their intervention is rooted in a fix not in the sound principle that ministers whose failure is absolute should pay an absolute price. In that regard they have failed to discharge the most basic function of an opposition party.
I first met Mr Swinney over 30 years ago and he is a politician I have always regarded highly. In the political jungle where it is easy to locate one’s baser instincts he has always tried to play fair. Ruthlessness and cynicism are frequently virtues in this world and for the most part his reputation as a good guy is well deserved.
Forget Swinney the politician for a moment. Swinney the man will be wrestling with that most draining of contests, the struggle with his conscience.
I cannot believe that his instincts are anything other than to resign. The brake on any decision will be that this is not an opportune time given the unprecedented times in which we live.
A crisis, bigger than the one that he helped create, may paradoxically be his saving grace.