I’m not going to go through the detail of both of these recent developments other than to say they are of the highest public interest given their content. But before you do so…
…have a watch of Labour MP Chris Bryant cross-examining Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the bi-annual Liaison Committee hearings in Parliament. It’s all about the Prime Minister’s ability to tell the truth and make factually correct statements in the House of Commons.
The first is on the Committee for Standards in Public Life, brought in by John Major’s Government in the mid-1990s after too many of his MPs were driving horses and carts through conventions that were supposed to uphold propriety and integrity in public office. In 1995 The Committee first reported back and came up with Seven Principles of Public Life:
Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
Holders of public office should be truthful.
Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.
To which many of you may feel like responding as in the video below:
The Report on Election Finance by the Committee for Standards in Public Life
Remember this is *just* on election finance – and you can read it here. The most important bits are pages 13-19, the recommendations. There are 47 of them. Yes, forty-seven recommendations on improving everything to do with election finance
Above – the last three of the recommendations on election finance. Scroll to page 13 here to start from Recommendation 1.
If that committee has so many recommendations to make just on election finance, then it calls into question the integrity of all of the elections that took place since internet use became mainstream.
Cabinet Ministers avoiding public scrutiny and making themselves national security risks
The disgraced former Health & Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock is now under investigation by the Information Commissioner.
Read the article here. Alternatively, or rather additionally, read the full announcement from the Information Commissioner herself here.
As Ms Denham notes, this is not the first time senior Conservatives have been caught behaving like this.
As well as making it harder for investigators – and further down the line, future historians, to work out what actually happened, it shows a complete contempt for the rules of government which are there for very good reasons – not least to protect the public from corrupt politicians.
And when it comes to unlawfully destroying sensitive papers, the British Government (in particular under Conservative administrations) has got form – such as the human rights abuses in the 1950s & 1960s during the era of decolonisation. Which makes it all sound so sanitised and peaceful. That era was anything but for too many countries, the legacies of which we still feel the shock waves of today.
Here’s Sir David Attenborough talking about his time as a young BBC producer at the time the Suez Crisis blew up.
The entire episode of the BBC documentary covers the brutality of the fighting in the canal zone. (TW: racism and possible war crimes). It was also a conflict that split the city of Cambridge as well – the most high profile opponent being one of the most high profile religious leaders in town as well – enthroned as a bishop only a few years after.
So both of the announcements from the CSPL, and the ICO are of extremely high public interest. I commend them to you.