The 7 principles of public life – trashed by this government at our expense

The Seven Principles of Public Life (also known as the Nolan Principles) apply to anyone who works as a public office-holder. This includes all those who are elected or appointed to public office, nationally and locally. Has this government adhered to these standards? Hell, no. Not at all. They break the principles at every turn, day in, day out.

But, you know what? They’re getting away with it. Normalising it. Numbing us to it. It’s high time we held them – and the right wing press – to account.

1. Selflessness

Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.

Brexit. Not in the public interest. It’s a monumental act of self-harm which every sane commentator and politician across the world sees with absolute clarity. Now we are in the situation where ministers, including the Chancellor, are not even mentioning the ‘B’ word, but just hoping every negative consequence can be blamed on Covid-19.

And what about the tax evasion motivation behind Brexit’s backers and advocates? Hmm? Is it in the public interest to starve the public purse of monies due? The EU is in the process of clamping down on tax fraud and money-laundering. London (or ‘Londongrad’) is now recognised as the money-laundering capital of the world. It’s probably the only growth area in post-Brexit Britain.

How about the much-lauded ending of freedom of movement, when it is we citizens of the UK who suffer the worst consequences and diminution of our freedoms? Yet Patel and the rest of the Brexit cultists crow about it – a dog whistle to the xenophobes and little Englanders.

Is threatening to break the law by breaching the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement in the public interest? What message does this send to the country and to the world? What are we without the rule of law?

Then there was Dominic Cummings’ breach of lockdown rules and Johnson’s subsequent defence of his (indefensible) action. This single and singular episode punched a yawning hole in any vestigial trust in the government and its Covid-19 strategy. The ‘one rule for us, another for you’ mantra runs through everything they say and do.

Jonathan Lis has written a powerful piece on this culture of impunity. Living under a regime that is untouchable is not good for any but those rich, powerful enough and with the right connections to exploit it.

Integrity

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.

Where to start? Robert ‘Honest Bob’ Jenrick is the poster boy for breaches of these guidelines made by all and sundry. Overruling planning decisions to help a donor, funnelling public money into Tory marginal seats. It’s all there. Just google Jenrick Corruption and read this article by Tom Scott. It’ll make your toes curl.

Hancock and Johnson have been guilty of putting their mates into big jobs for which they are not qualified. No scrutiny. No competition. No accountability. Now they are being sued. Good.
 

3. Objectivity

Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

Check out the PPE procurement scandal (which also fits into every other category in this list).

The National Audit Office revealed the existence of a VIP channel for those with political connections to significantly up their chances of winning lucrative contracts, regardless of their credentials, track record and financial state. Unacceptable. Don’t forget – it’s our money they are spending.

4. Accountability

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.

But this government …

  • Prorogued parliament (and lied to the Queen in the process).
  • Consistently attempts to by-pass parliamentary scrutiny, latest example being reneging on the manifesto commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on overseas aid. Under the law there should be a debate –  but not with this lot. A whiff of rebellion in the ranks and it’s all kept away from scrutiny.
  • Had to be forced to build in six monthly renewal of special powers to deal with the pandemic.
  • Has refused to follow through on the Russia Report with a thorough investigation into Russian interference in our democracy.

Rishi Sunak, not big on fessing up to his own wealth and connections (see below), is also not keen on scrutiny of his rôle as chancellor. He is now unwilling to appear before the Treasury select committee after the spending review! See ‘Openness’ also …

5. Openness

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.

Step forward Michael Gove, also facing legal action, this time for operating a screening system for freedom of information requests made by the public in order to stop us seeing what this government does not want us to see. The same unit also shares information on any journalists making requests and advises relevant departments ‘to protect sensitive information’. Sounds like blacklisting, doesn’t it? Orwellian.

Incidentally, it’s not very open of Rishi Sunak to fail to declare his wife’s enormous wealth and shareholdings in the ministerial register, is it?

6. Honesty

Holders of public office should be truthful.

Hahahahaha. Oh my! We have some world-beating liars governing us and the scant regard for the truth runs through everything they say and do.

Let’s give a few examples, out of many hundreds.

  • Johnson’s 2019 election slogan – the oven ready deal – a real whopper of a lie. Where is that deal, exactly?
  • Johnson’s Covid-19 lies are also profoundly shocking and damaging to citizens. Byline Times summarised them in this article. Do read it. It’s falsehood along the lines of the Trump model.
  • Liz Truss lying that our new deal with Japan is better than the one we benefited from as members of the EU. It isn’t. It’s worse. Significantly worse. (Watch Emily Thornberry call her out below.)
  • The ‘small’ but insidious lies …again, just two examples from so very, very many:
    • Johnson claiming he had met Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice. He hadn’t.
    • Rishi Sunak claiming he had set up meetings with the 3 million excluded from all Covid-19 financial aid. He hadn’t.

7. Leadership

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.

‘Challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs’. Johnson and his mob are seriously taking the you-know-what on this one. Cummings. Jenrick. Patel. Johnson himself.

To defend a proven bully in National Anti-Bullying Week is some weapons-grade contempt for the public. Attempting to pressure your own ethics adviser and author of the report, Sir Alex Allan, into toning down his conclusions topped off this appalling example of morally-bankrupt and failed leadership. The consequence? The man of decency quit, the perpetrator stayed in post without any sanction and the ‘leader’ backed her all the way. What message does this send to our children or to people enduring bullying in the workplace?

Look. We recognise that many of us are already highly cynical about politicians and rank them very poorly as models of propriety and honour. But this lot? This goes way beyond incompetence and greed. This is unfettered, unchecked corruption and deceit that has the power to wreck the country and to ruin, and even end lives. To cap it all, they are now entering yet another phase of blame-shifting so that it is now we who are responsible for the lockdown and tiering measures, hauliers who must take the rap for export and import chaos, companies who have only themselves to blame for not being ready for something on which they have had no direction and no guidance – because it does not exist – the Brexit deal. Oh, and of course it is the EU’s fault if we don’t get what we want, which is all the benefits of membership without any of the costs. Brexit is, and always was, the most terrible lie of all.

I’ve given just a very few examples. As I have said, the list of crimes and misdemeanours is a very, very long one and most of the evidence has been painstakingly uncovered by independent journalists while the right wing press continues to peddle lies, to make excuses for severe breaches of standards and to perpetuate dangerous Brexit myths.

What can we do about this? Well, we can write to our MPs and tell them that we see the lies, the corruption and the absence of integrity. We can write to the mainstream media, take part in radio phone-ins, share articles like this on community Facebook and other social media platforms, as well as amongst friends and acquaintances and, very importantly, with those who disagree with us or are in denial.

We can also support independent journalism, of which Byline Times is a shining example.

Most importantly of all, we can keep ourselves from succumbing to weariness or apathy. As individuals, we must be part of the fight to stop these egregious behaviours becoming normalised. We must keep calling them out.

It’s exhausting to stay angry, I know, but it’s soul-destroying to join the shruggers and give up. Things can and do change. Look at the Biden/Harris victory. There really are more good people than bad. We need to find and support each other. Byliners of the world unite!