Chamberlain: Ending corruption and sleaze vital to democracy

The government has been mired with sleaze. The Conservatives attempted to keep Owen Paterson as an MP and thankfully failed. Boris Johnson is the first prime minister to be interviewed by the police under caution. He is dodging the question of whether he will resign if he is fined over partygate.

Yesterday, the Lib Dem Spring Conference voted for a package of reforms. These include putting the Ministerial Code into law and making sure it is fully independent of the prime minister; appointing an Independent Adviser to oversee the Code and launch their own investigations; and introducing a range of sanctions for those found to have broken the Ministerial Code.

Sanctions could include apologies, fines, and demanding a minister’s resignation.

Wendy Chamberlain said:

This country is built on the simple mantra, that it doesn’t matter how high and mighty you think you are, the rules are the rules. If you break the rules, you get punished. Yet Boris Johnson and many Conservative MPs think the rules don’t apply to them.

Conservatives’ actions have created a sense of ‘one rule for them, another rule for us’, eroding the trust of the public they are meant to be acting in the best interest of.

This Government showed its true colours back in Autumn 2021, with their decision to overturn Owen Paterson’s 30-day suspension from the House of Commons. Then their lies were exposed with the revelations of parties in Downing Street and the accusations that Number 10 officials and the Prime Minister have potentially breached lockdown rules.

Polling in December 2021 showed that just 5% of the public believe politicians work for the good of the country. That is a tragedy for our democracy.

The Government is accountable to the public, who have the right to a transparent Government that does not act above the law.

Previous Prime Ministers and previous Governments have all had their failings. However, it has been a long time since we have seen, not just this stench of sleaze, but the absolute lack of resolve to do anything about it.

Time and again, government ministers have refused to properly investigate allegations of sleaze, failed to declare relevant meetings and donations and tried to rig the system to cover their own backs.

Boris Johnson and many Conservative MPs think the rules don’t apply to them.

This crisis has highlighted the imbalance of power between the executive and the legislature. This includes the Government’s evasion of scrutiny during Parliamentary recess – only ministers can recall Parliament – and the Government’s control of the Parliamentary timetable, thus limiting the issues which can be discussed by MPs.

The Conservatives’ actions have created a sense of ‘one rule for them, another rule for us’, eroding the trust of the public they are meant to be acting in the best interest of.

In our new policy passed today, Liberal Democrats are calling for:

  • A public inquiry into the ongoing Conservative sleaze scandal, with the disclosure of relevant documents
  • Codifying the Ministerial Code into legislation with governance independent of the Prime Minister
  • Introducing a range of sanctions for those who break the Ministerial Code with an Independent Advisor for investigating breaches
  • Giving MPs more control of the business in the House (e.g., recalling Parliament).

We need an independent, statutory public inquiry, with the powers and resources to get to the bottom of this Conservative sleaze scandal – including the power to summon witnesses and require them to give evidence under oath.

We also need an independent investigation system – at present it’s the equivalent of defendants in a court case also taking part in the jury. And we must ensure those with a vested interest in tearing up Parliament’s anti-sleaze rules don’t have the power to do so.

Liberal Democrats are committed to creating an inclusive democracy, in which politicians from all parties can be trusted by the people they represent.

We will not stand by and allow this culture of sleaze to continue.

Read the full motion.

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This entry was posted in Conference and News.


  • Helen Dudden 12th Mar '22 - 9:48am

    It is time for a stand against corruption and sleaze.

    The billions that have been wasted during Covid and written off, is so wrong.

  • I agree with Helen the corruption and incompetence that has come to light over recent times must not be forgotten even though events elsewhere are rightly taking precedence at the moment.

  • What we need are processes and structures that prevent this corruption of our democracy. A written constitution supervised by a constitutional court independent of the government and decides by a Citizens’ Assembly is the way to go. It should confirm that parliament supersedes government and require a super-majority to make changes to itself that require confirmation by a referendum.

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