Attitudes towards conduct in public life

Lord Norton

On Tuesday, the House had a question for short debate (QSD) on the recent report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) on its survey of public attitudes towards standards in public life.  The survey reflects a continuing lack of confidence in politicians, as distinct from institutions.  The debate was initiated by the new chair of the CSPL, Lord Bew.  There were so many speakers that each, other than Lord Bew and the minister, had three minutes.  The debate can be read here.

In my three minutes, I argued that ensuring that maintaining standards, as embodied in the Code of Conduct, is necessary but not sufficient to ensure high levels of trust.  The necessary conditions have yet to be met.  As for the sufficient conditions, we need a bottom-up and a top-down approach.  The bottom-up approach is through devoting resources to citizenship education and also ensuring there are incentives for head teachers to take it seriously.  The top-down approach is to ensure leadership on the part of politicians, moving away from acting on the basis of focus groups or passing bandwagons.  The parties also need to get out of the cycle of trying to out-bid one another. Restoring trust lies not in institutional change.  It’s not the institutions that are the problem, but rather the people who occupy them.  Once we recognise that, we are at least taking the necessary step to addressing the problem

4 comments for “Attitudes towards conduct in public life

  1. maude elwes
    07/02/2014 at 9:12 am

    Could it be the public are sick and tired of phoney politicians trying to sell us all a bill of goods as cheap and nasty as this DM article. Then go on pretending all is well and what a wonderful turn around we are seeing in our economy, etc., whilst we are all aware it’s a pack of lies. It reminds me of the historical attitude of Kaiser Wilhelm before he slaughtered the men of Europe without a care in the world. Half witted irresponsibility didn’t die with the end of true monarchists.

    Do any of you know what truth is any more?

    Put this right in the conscience of Parliament and maybe, if you are very fortunate, the public will return to the fold.

  2. tizres
    09/02/2014 at 11:52 pm

    When Adam Boulton yearns for the good old days of Alastair Campbell*, something is not quite right. When Baron Smith of Finsbury gets heckled while Prince Charles gets the thumbs-up**, there’s a problem. When Mark Harper resigns apparently for doing no wrong***, I’m being taken for a fool.


  3. maude elwes
    11/02/2014 at 8:35 am

    The Swiss public have taken another vote to save their souls. Well done the Swiss.

    What a wonderful world it would be in the UK if only we had such Direct Democracy. Bring it on. It should be an EU policy for all the States.

  4. Rhoderick Gates
    21/02/2014 at 7:54 am

    “restoring trust lies not in institutional change. It’s not the institutions that are the problem, but rather the people who occupy them.”

    Untrue for many people. If you’re a politically active citizen in the UK, the most you’re legally allowed to do it vote or lobby an MP or Peer. Or run for elected office yourself.

    The average voter has little, if any influence, on decisions, policies and laws. Even if we aren’t to go down the route of direct democracy, the public is surely in need of a smaller democratic deficit to allow more direct participation in the decisions that affect their lives.

    If one is like myself, waiting for the next election before getting preselected to be a party candidate, what ARE we supposed to do? Just lobby the local politician & HOPE they comply? That’s not good enough.

    Without significant political or constitutional form, the only reform I can think of, even without formal power, would be like a third house of parliament similar to a jury. Allow more people in and let them get involved.

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