In Full: Wendy Chamberlain’s speech from the Standards debate

I thought it was worth reproducing in full Wendy Chamberlain’s speech from the Standards debate she successfully led on Monday.

Wendy has been our lead spokesperson on two of the biggest recent news stories – the events around the sentencing of Sarah Everard’s murderer and now the Government’s attempts to dilute the disciplinary processes after one of their own MPs was found to be in breach.

Wendy also smashed various media interviews on Monday. She did the full morning round and here are some clips:


Here’s a brief video of her speech with all the interventions with the full text below She did a fantastic job:

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the matter of the consequences of the decision of the House on 3 November relating to Standards.

First, I want to place on the record my thanks to you, Mr Speaker, for facilitating this debate. I also want to record my thanks for the work done by all members of staff in this place.

I must agree with you, Mr Speaker: I was horrified to learn that the Commissioner for Standards had received death threats. That is appalling. No one should receive death threats for doing their job.

The role of Commissioner for Standards provided one of the key ways in which we moved beyond previous scandals which had rocked the House. The role is not political The Commissioner was appointed by the House to do a job, and that is what she has done and continues to do.

The actions of the Government last week have tarnished this House’s reputation. Last week was UK Parliament Week, a time focused on engaging citizens in the work that we do here. Well, Mr Speaker, if I had been tuning into Parliament last week for the first time, I would probably have turned the television right off again.

I have been a Member of this place for less than two years, and most of the time I am proud to have been chosen to represent North East Fife to be able to act for my constituents and to fight their corner. I was proud to do the right thing last week by opposing the Government and voting to uphold the standards procedure. It is hard to be proud to be a Member of Parliament when, as a body, we are all tarnished with the Government’s brush and when in the eyes of the public we are tainted by allegations of sleaze.

The Government’s actions last Wednesday have rightly been condemned across the board. Sir John Major said that

“the way the government handled that was shameful, wrong and unworthy of this or indeed any government.”

Lord Evans, Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said that the proposed reforms to the Standards Committee were

“deeply at odds with the best traditions of British democracy.”

My inbox and, I am sure, those of others are full. One example of the many questions I have been asked is:

“What gives the Government the right to have a vote to change the process just because it has adversely affected one of their own? This is an appalling message to the wider public.”

My constituent was right: what gives this Government the right to think that they can change the rules when a decision does not suit them, that they can ignore judgments that are not in their favour and that they can whip their own MPs to achieve the outcome they wanted, in violation of the conventions of this House?

Layla Moran
(Oxford West and Abingdon) (LD)

Does my hon. Friend agree that this has been a distraction from one of the most important sets of debates going Toggle showing location ofColumn 34on at the moment, at COP26? When our constituents were tuning in to this place, that is where the focus of Parliament should have been. Instead, the focus was on the shenanigans of this Government, and that is the real tragedy here.

Wendy Chamberlain

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. COP is the last-chance saloon for this country and for the planet, and to have such distractions in this place is reprehensible.

Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi
(Slough) (Lab)

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Lady for securing today’s debate on standards. When I was first elected to this House, the mother of all Parliaments, I was incredibly proud because I thought that Members conducted themselves with honour and integrity, and that we were not ruled by a Prime Minister who was a tinpot dictator and who is himself now mired in sleaze—

Mr Speaker

Order. We have just said that we want to show the House at its best. I do not think that the term “tinpot dictator” aimed at an individual is going to bring unity. I want to see us at our best, to show that we take this seriously. We want to show the House in the best way possible, so please, let us moderate our language and moderate our thoughts. Let us do this right.

Wendy Chamberlain

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

I think there is a point here: this is the kind of behaviour we would expect to see in the Duma in Moscow or the National People’s Congress in Beijing, not in the House of Commons. Previous Prime Ministers and previous Governments have all had their failings, but it is a long time since we have seen issues such as these and an absolute lack of resolve to do anything about them. They say that a fish rots from the head down, and I am disappointed to see that the Prime Minister has chosen not to turn up today to answer our questions, given that the Leader of the Opposition is in his place. I cannot help but feel that he thinks the rules do not apply to him.

The Government have recently failed to properly investigate allegations, failed to declare relevant meetings and, arguably, attempted to rig the system to cover their own back. This is the Prime Minister who flew to Afghanistan to escape a vote on Heathrow when he was Foreign Secretary, and he has driven to the north-east to escape questions today.

Mr John Baron
(Basildon and Billericay) (Con)

I thank the hon. Lady for securing this debate. As one of those who defied the three-line Whip of their Government last week on this issue, I think she will agree that it was patently wrong to try to reform the system at this point. We have had years to reform it, but does she agree that we need cross-party support for this, and that, given that the Committee on Standards is already looking at the issue, we should wait for its findings before making any further decisions?

Wendy Chamberlain

I am sure that the hon. Member was present at the debate last week, and he will know that that is exactly what those of us on this side of the House were calling for. We were calling for consensus and for the goalposts not to be moved. We were also Toggle showing location ofColumn 35proposing that we look at our processes and procedures on an ongoing basis, as we should be doing, and hold ourselves to account as our voters would expect us to do. I have had correspondence from lifelong Conservative voters who have been appalled, not just by last week’s actions but, sadly, by this Government’s actions over the past two years and the alarming frequency with which scandals befall them.

Janet Daby
(Lewisham East) (Lab)

Does the hon. Lady agree that the Government have been playing a ridiculous game with the public’s trust, not only through the foul play in last week’s vote, but through a string of corrupt dealings over the past two years?

Wendy Chamberlain

I will go on to detail some of the things the hon. Lady is referring to. Back in May 2020, it was Dominic Cummings’s trip to Barnard Castle, in flagrant breach of covid regulations; then it was the Home Secretary, found to have breached the ministerial code, but let off; and then it was the then Health Secretary breaching covid guidance he had been instructing others to follow. That is just the tip of the iceberg.

Wera Hobhouse
(Bath) (LD)

It has been said in the media that some MPs are now walking through the corridors of Westminster feeling invincible. Does my hon. Friend agree that we are accountable to our constituents and that they are our boss?

Wendy Chamberlain

I agree, and that is one of the challenges. This is not an ordinary job. We are not in a line management structure; we are accountable only to our constituents.

Mr Barry Sheerman
(Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)

As the longest-serving Member on the Opposition Benches, may I say to the House that I was appalled at what happened last week? However, as a long-serving Member, I must also say that that behaviour is not typical. I have worked with people in this House of all parties for a very long time, and most of their behaviour is good. It is excellent—it is cross-party. This case has done something to damage our reputation, but please let none of us undermine the fact that normally, most hon. Members on all sides act honourably and work together, and I am proud to be a Member working with them.

Wendy Chamberlain

As an MP elected in 2019, one of the great losses as a result of covid has been the lack of opportunity to meet people in real life and engage across the House and across parties. As we move through covid, I hope there will be more opportunity to do that, so that we can see the good behaviour on all sides.

Tim Farron
(Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for securing this debate. She is absolutely right. In recent weeks, we have mourned the loss of two great men, who served their communities well in this House and were decent people. We have talked about how important it is that we conduct ourselves with grace and forgiveness on all sides and that our tone is different from that which the public expect. Does she agree, though, that being gracious does not mean ignoring the reality when one side behaves especially badly? We do not need to be soppily neutral. The reality is that the Government made a decision last week to do something that undermined trust in democracy at every level, locally and here in Westminster. That is why her debate is so important.

Wendy Chamberlain

We on these Benches are the Opposition. It is our job to oppose the Government unless they can behave otherwise. I will try to make some progress.

Over the past 20 months, my constituents have had to follow more rules than they have ever had to deal with before, while sadly we are governed by Ministers who seem to care far less about the rules than any predecessors in living memory. That is why we are here today. It has been reported over the weekend that Ministers are focused on pleasing their boss, not on doing what is right for this country. We have seen story after story break, including cash for honours and undeclared interests.

Daisy Cooper
(St Albans) (LD)

On that point about cash for honours, does my hon. Friend agree that the House of Lords Appointments Commission should be put on a statutory footing, to ensure that any recommendations made to the Prime Minister cannot be ignored in the same way that the Prime Minister ignored advice given to him by the previous independent adviser on ministerial interests, recommending that the Home Secretary be sacked for bullying?

Wendy Chamberlain

These are all things that need to be looked at on an ongoing basis, and there are potentially areas where the different processes are in conflict. However, I will now make some progress.

Who is influencing our politics? How is taxpayers’ money being spent, and what is being done to hold those in power to account? Those questions are why we argue that we need a public inquiry, with the powers and resources to get to the depths of the situation we are in. People around the country who play by the rules deserve answers, but instead they are being let down by this Government and by a Prime Minister who will not take even the most basic of steps to turn up to this debate.

It is a great shame that the Prime Minister has not graced us with his presence this afternoon, because there is still a huge amount that we do not know about the events of last week. There are many questions that demand answers, many of them involving the Prime Minister’s personal role in this affair. This is a Prime Minister, after all, who has been under investigation more times than any other Member in recent years. The question is: who stands to benefit from getting the current standards processes out of the way? Members of the public will have to draw their own conclusions on that, with the Prime Minister not being here today.

However, the questions do not stop at the Prime Minister; they extend to all those involved in the whipping operation last week. First, why was there a whipping operation in the first place? This was House business and it should not have been whipped. The Government tried to change our procedures without our consent; and then they U-turned and tried to walk it back. But they cannot walk back the events of last week—that is why we are here, looking forward.Toggle showing location ofColumn 37

We have heard serious, concerning allegations today that Members breaking the whip were threatened with a removal of funding for projects in their constituencies. I ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office to address that point and whether it is this true, as the matter deserves further investigation. The idea that communities should suffer because their representative did the right thing is, frankly, abhorrent. Despite all those alleged threats, the whipping operation was only a partial success. I thank those Members on the Conservative Benches who stood up for what was right and those Members, including the Father of the House, who last week supported my application for this debate.

Aaron Bell
(Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Con)

I just wish to make it clear that at no stage were any threats of that nature made to me when I broke the whip last week.

Wendy Chamberlain

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and for providing us with that clarity—it is unfortunate that the Prime Minister is not here to do that.

The final set of questions is for us, in this place, to answer; they are not for Ministers and the Government, but for Members of this House. How do we go about rebuilding trust and confidence in what we do here?

No system is perfect. There is always room for improvement. Whatever I previously thought of our process for investigating complaints against Members, what I saw last week made it abundantly clear that changes need to be made. I find it hard to believe that Owen Paterson was able to vote on his own suspension last week, while the votes of Members currently under investigation were critical in the passage of the amendment that saved him. That looks like the equivalent of the defendants in a court case also taking part in the jury. It is wrong, and if we are to make changes, that must be top of the list of reforms.

There has been much discussion of a right to appeal—this is something we have heard a lot from the Government as they try to justify their actions. I would point out that, through the Nationality and Borders Bill currently going through Parliament, the Government are attempting to take the rights of appeal away from asylum seekers. No matter what changes are proposed, one thing is clear: those with a vested interest in tearing up Parliament’s anti-sleaze rules should not be given the power to do so, and any amendment to these rules must be done fairly and with the proper amount of time taken and consideration given by this House. It is this House that invests the authority in the Committee on Standards to act on its behalf in considering the Commissioner’s reports, and considering whether or not to uphold those reports and the sanctions attached to them. I am sure that the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), who is Chair of the Committee, will use time today to speak about the steps that the Committee is taking, to which you referred earlier, Mr Speaker.

As a new MP elected in 2019, I did not vote on the current rules, but I accept them, because they are the rules in place. I am a member of a smaller party. We do not have representation on the Standards Committee, but those are the rules and we accept them. If the processes are to be changed, that needs to be done properly and with consensus across the House. That is what the Leader of the House should have been looking to do last Wednesday: to act on behalf of the House, instead of his own party. That is what he should be doing today: listening to Members’ contributions and responding to them—I understand that he is not doing so. Instead, we have the Minister for the Cabinet Office responding to us. Can he let us know what exact involvement the Cabinet Office has in this House’s standards procedures? Certainly, wherever we go from here, without a cross-party consensus, reforms will simply have no legitimacy.

Like you, Mr Speaker, I hope for positive and constructive contributions from those in all parts of the House this afternoon, as we work out how to move forward from this scandal. I hope that the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister will engage with this process. One of my constituents wrote to me saying:

“Mr Paterson’s resignation is not the end. It must be the beginning of an uncompromising campaign to end the corruption of our politics.”

I hope that we can begin that campaign, in this place, today.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Wendy’s great, isn’t she?

    I was delighted when she won the NE Fife seat and I’ve admired her for a while, but I continue to be impressed at how she’s grown into the role. She gained a lot of cross-party admiration over the last few weeks, and its well deserved.

    The lobbying and Tory sleaze issue looks like it will run and I hope Wendy is given the opportunity to lead for our party on this.

  • Brad Barrows 10th Nov '21 - 5:54pm

    I read that Ed Davy is getting £78,000 for 10 hours work per month as a consultant to a law and energy firm. If the only reason he gets this ‘work’ is because he is a MP, then this looks very bad. If it is allowed under current rules, it shouldn’t be.

  • Brad: A Lib Dem spokesman said: “Ed Davey has always been clear that any additional income he earns is to ensure there are funds available for his severely disabled son, who requires 24/7 support.
    “The work Ed does is fully declared. transparent and within the rules. It involves providing expert advice on tackling the climate crisis.”

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Nov '21 - 11:17pm

    “any additional income he earns is to ensure there are funds available for his severely disabled son, who requires 24/7 support”

    Sorry, but that’s a rubbish defence. For a start there’s the obvious question – what the hell are people who couldn’t dream of an £82k salary, let alone doubling it with moonlighting (i.e. almost every other family with a severely disabled child), supposed to do? But quite apart from that, the point at issue in *all* these cases isn’t what moonlighting MPs do with the money they earn; it’s what they do to earn the money. Waving his disabled son at us as an excuse is downright distasteful and utterly irrelevant.

  • I half agree Malcolm. If we want MPs to be fully focused on the day job then it’s irrelevant whether they donate any extra income to charity or buy a big yacht with it. However, you make the counter-point, which is how do people manage? Ed has said he knows he’s luckier than most to be able to do this, and he has campaigned for better support for everyone in his situation.

    The other complexity is that every government minister is technically doing so as a 2nd job. If your local MP happens to be the Prime Minister, how focused can they really be on constituency issues? What if they are the Speaker? An MP can lose their government position (and extra pay) for not following the whip, so does that make them more likely to do what’s right for their constituents?

    There are still some who complain about women becoming MPs if they want to have children, but on the whole, being a ‘family man’ is to be admired. If it’s good when an MP takes their children on holiday for a week, is it bad for an MP to spend time when they might have gone on holiday earning money for their specialist care? If an MP has young children it is expected that they’ll juggle their work as an MP with being a parent, so is it really that bad if a backbench MP with no family commitments spends a few days a year doing other work? But everyone needs some down time to recharge batteries, and doing a 2nd job is not switching off.

    Most people are OK with MPs with a trade/profession doing enough to maintain competence, but it’s harder to judge when specialist knowledge becomes influence due to being an MP.

    It’s apparent the rules need revising, but IMO there are much wider issues to consider in how Parliament works and whatever our thought are on that, let’s not allow that to be used to excuse people who have broken existing rules.

  • Peter Watson 11th Nov '21 - 4:14pm

    @Cassie “A Lib Dem spokesman said: ‘Ed Davey has always been clear that any additional income he earns is to ensure there are funds available for his severely disabled son, who requires 24/7 support.'”
    You and Malcolm make some excellent points that chime with my thoughts on this aspect of the debates this week.
    I was struck by the fact that in the Guardian article which listed the thirty MPs “earning money for consultancy or advisory work” (, where Ed Davey was in 5th place, he was the only one where there was a mention of what the money was for (“Total £78,000 for 120 hours – all earnings used to benefit Sir Ed’s disabled son”). It seemed odd and I was unsure if it was a clumsy attempt by the Guardian to distance Davey from the mostly Tory list or if the arrangement has some sort of official status.
    It certainly put a different and distracting slant on some of the news coverage: I thought that Davey sounded uncomfortable defending it in a Radio 4 interview, but equally, a Labour spokesperson later in the week sounded uncomfortable when asked, using Davey as an example, if it was something that should be banned.
    Either way, I was struck by Davey’s commitment to the party: he can earn £650 per hour just for giving advice but sticks with the Sisyphean task of leading the Lib Dems! 😉 😉

  • Malcolm, I didn’t say it was ideal. Just pointed out that it is within the rules and isn’t a case of ‘snout in the trough for personal enrichment’. Or influencing ministers to hand out billions to their mates. To answer Brad’s ‘it looks bad’ for the record, really, for anyone reading this thread.
    Ten hours a month is unlikely to detract massively from his constituency work or party work.
    The lack of provision for disabled children generally is, or course, a major issue. If you had a disabled child and were able to do something to benefit them, would you turn that down because others didn’t have that option?

  • William Francis 11th Nov '21 - 9:38pm

    I’d be very interested to know what kind of analysis Sir Ed is providing to Herbert Smith Freehills to be paid £60,000 per year.

    He should be transparent about it for the sake of the party.

  • Christopher Moore 12th Nov '21 - 3:30pm

    1. Ed D’s consultancy work doesn’t detract from his job as an MP.
    2. He doesn’t make his money through paid lobbying.
    3. There is nothing wrong about being paid a lot for expertise. Expertise is desirable, rare and expensive.

    4. There is nothing wrong about being paid a lot, full stop.

    Good luck to him and good luck to his son.

  • Nonconformistradical 12th Nov '21 - 3:49pm

    @Christopher Moore
    “3. There is nothing wrong about being paid a lot for expertise. Expertise is desirable, rare and expensive.”
    Sometimes expensive because of a sort of closed shop limiting the numbers?

    “4. There is nothing wrong about being paid a lot, full stop.”
    If it is genuinely deserved.

    In the case of an MP isn’t there an issue about the amount they might earn through a 2nd job potentially making it difficult for them to empathise with poor constituents?

  • Lee_Thacker 12th Nov '21 - 4:17pm

    The Guardian website has a useful tool enabling you to find out the outside intetests of MPs. Ed Davey really does stand out compared to the other 11 Lib Dem MPs and the other party leaders.

    If he really is spending less than twelve hours a month on his outside duties I don’t see how anyone can object. However, it would be difficult for an outsider to audit how much time he is spending on a second job. Presumably as long as he spends 40 hours plus on party/parliamentary activities no one cares.

    What I do find concerning is the implication that you need a household income of more than £100,000 a year to look after a disabled child. Are things really that bad?

  • Chris Moore 12th Nov '21 - 4:54pm

    Hello, Nonconformistradical,

    Is there a closed shop for environmental advice? I doubt it.

    Yes, being paid a lot does have a tendency to reduce empathy with the poorly off. (There’s been experimental clinical psychology work that supports this very plausible idea.)

    Do you think our leader demonstrates a lack of empathy with the poorly off?

  • Nonconformistradical 12th Nov '21 - 5:18pm

    @Chris Moore
    I did use the word ‘potentially’ in my comment about empathy. I didn’t imply that it would apply to every MP having a significant amount of non-parliamentary earned income.

    As far as I know Ed Davey has a good reputation as a constituency MP.

  • Peter Watson 12th Nov '21 - 5:50pm

    @Chris Moore “Do you think our leader demonstrates a lack of empathy with the poorly off?”
    More importantly, does the party look like one with empathy for the “poorly off” and does Ed Davey’s income help or hinder that image?
    On this website there are frequent contributions from some amazingly compassionate Lib Dems who obviously care for the “poorly off”, but that is not an impression that the party has given in recent – and not so recent – years.
    Policies defended in Coalition damaged the Lib Dem reputation and the 2015 election greatly reduced the socioeconomic diversity of the places the party represents. Opposition to Brexit subsequently took up all of the space for other messages, while a sneering attitude towards, and characterisation of, those who supported Brexit suggested the party had little empathy for anyone without a university degree.
    These days, when I look at Lib Dem MPs, their constituencies, the target seats and the by-elections Lib Dems get most excited about, I see a party of and for the better off.

  • Christopher Moore 12th Nov '21 - 6:51pm

    Hello, Nonconformistical and Peter,

    Sometimes tone of voice is lost in messaging!

    Yes, I understood that it’s a tendency to be less empathetic. But important nonetheless.

    The question about Ed Davey was a genuine one, not rhetorical! Do you think he is unempathetic with the less-well off? I don’t personally know.

    And I am in whole-hearted agreement with you, Peter, about Coalition and Brexit. Spending 5 years refusing to accept the Referendum – and being arrogant about it – destroyed our once loyal support in the West Country, for example.

    We come over as distant from the concerns of most voters: the conversation on another thread about making PR a major campaigning issue would just drive home how out of touch we are with most of the electorate.

  • I wonder what the comments would be for a Tory whose ‘expertise’ was worth £500+ per hour to a firm heavily into PFI and ‘privatisation work’…

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Nov '21 - 11:26am

    The only question ought in my mind to be, not how money is spent, but is there a conflict or potential conflict of interest?

    We have a free press thank goodness and I expect that investigative journalists will now trawl through the voting records of MPs to check this out.

    The question that remains uppermost , is why are these organisations paying enormous sums for ‘expertise’, (gained when and where ?) , or influence? There is also the question as to how busy MPs find the time for a second or more jobs?

    There are, as Fiona says, professions where it is important for a person becoming an MP to maintain competence, but is the need to maintain competencies in accordance with professional bodies a reality for most aspiring politicians who may after election of Office of State then be viewed as attractive because they offer some sort of expertise?

    I have every sympathy with Sir Ed., but Malcolm Todd is quite correct.. How any money from outside interests is spent is irrelevant..

    In another discussion on whether there should be anti- corruption candidate supported by all political parties in the forthcoming North Shropshire , there were those who thought that corruption was not as important to voters as other issues. Perhaps a perusal of that organ of ‘middle England, the Daily Mail, or the latest polls might lead to a revision of that belief.

  • Just a few comments from me! When it comes to corruption, the latest Private Eye edition has an in depth report on the eye watering profits made at the expense of the British tax payer for the procurement of PPE, s etc and also the outsourcing of track and Trace contracts, they are mind boggling!,on top of the latest revelations it makes you wonder when the public will finally realise how much we are taken for granted?
    On another theme on here I see one poll this morning declaring that 52% of the population, given the chance would rejoin the EU against 47% who would not, also 40% at this moment in time would welcome another referendum in the coming years on the subject, while I reluctantly accepted the last referendum result I see no reason why we remainers should shut up about the benefits of belonging to that bloc, after all the anti EU brigade banged on about their anti EU feelings for many years quite apart from the politicians who conveniently change opinion when it suits their personal ambitions?

  • So Ed Davey is a part-time leader and Layla Moran doesn’t understand what any local councillor will know – that you don’t use your office for other work.

    It is heart-sinking when it transpires that our MPs are no better than the rest.

  • @Nonconformistradical
    “In the case of an MP isn’t there an issue about the amount they might earn through a 2nd job potentially making it difficult for them to empathise with poor constituents?”

    The ability to empathise is more about upbringing, worldview and experience than current circumstances. I suggest anyone who has been to boarding school (or schools like Eton) are massively handicapped in their dealings with the wider public.

    Personally, I’ve always encouraged people from poorer backgrounds to aspire beyond the circumstances and aspirations of their parents – there is nothing wrong with walking out of uni. into a job with a salary that is more than your parents combined income, just remember what your parents achieved when you start to complain about being ‘poor’.

  • John Marriott 13th Nov '21 - 3:02pm

    I see that, according to today’s Times, Layla Moran “has apologised for using her Commons office for a paid non parliamentary meeting”. Glasshouses and stones?

  • Lee Thacker 13th Nov '21 - 9:39pm

    Before we get too depressed it is worth noting that in The Economist’s “Democracy Index” Britain was rated a fully functioning democracy. The country was ranked 16 out of 167 territories.

    Transparency International ranked Britain the joint eleventh least corrupt country in the world.

  • Barry Lofty 14th Nov '21 - 8:46am

    Lee Thacker: Blimey some of those other countries must be really corrupt??!!!😊

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Nov '21 - 8:57am

    “Lee Thacker: Blimey some of those other countries must be really corrupt??!!!”

  • I agree with @Lee Thacker. The stories that have come out about sleaze are certainly concerning, and it’s good that they are being investigated. But the way some people are talking as if our very democracy is under threat is just way over-hyped. In many countries – even many democracies – the activities of Owen Paterson and Geoffrey Cox would probably be considered pretty unremarkable. The fact that we take them so seriously in the UK and the fact that Owen Paterson has pretty much been forced to resign actually shows how strong our democracy is.

    For comparison, it’s barely 60 years ago in the UK that Beeching was appointed to do his report leading to the Government closing so many railways, and the Government was engaged in mass-building motorways – under a transport minister, Ernest Marples – who had founded and had held shares in a construction company that was involved with and profiting from building roads! When it was pointed out to Marples that this was against the Conflict-of-Interest rules then in place, he sold the shares… to his wife! Maybe there a few raised eyebrows, but as far as I’m aware, there was no public scandal about it, and Marples kept his transport minister job until the Tories lost the next election. The contrast with – say – Owen Paterson having to resign as an MP for actions that are bad but nevertheless much more minor than those of Marples – shows if anything how much higher our standards have become today. And I think that’s something we should be pleased about, even as we hold the Government to account for the actions of their MPs and ministers.

  • Simon R: Well that’s alright then, it might be that we are better informed now than back in the day and in my humble opinion what has been going on in our country ,particularly over recent times, is not something that we should dismiss as being quite trivial! there is something quite rotten in the woodpile and it needs to be sorted before it escalates even more!!!

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Nov '21 - 10:23am

    @Simon R
    “But the way some people are talking as if our very democracy is under threat is just way over-hyped. In many countries – even many democracies – the activities of Owen Paterson and Geoffrey Cox would probably be considered pretty unremarkable. ”

    Since when did two wrongs make a right?

    We have a ‘government’ in power via an electoral system in which many voters, depending on where they happen to live, have no hope whatsoever of their vote contributing to electing a representative even remotely understanding of these voters’ individual situations.

    A ‘government’ which, on the evidence of some of the legislation it is trying to pass, appears determined to avoid proper scrutiny as much as possible.

    That seems like a ‘democracy under threat’…

  • @ Barry Lofty and Nonconformistradical

    The Economist has been criticised for not revealing the methodology of how the rankings are calculated or who designed the survey.

    Transparency International’s survey seems a bit subjective to me. I was surprised Hong Kong was so low in terms of corruption – joint 11th with the UK. “The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople”

    Two surveys we don’t do so well in are Freedom House’s “Freedom in the World” survey and “Reporters without Borders”. Low 30s in both cases.

    We are 7th in the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. Not sure if that is anything to be proud of …!

    I am guessing it is our independent institutions that make us so well regarded e.g the courts and The Electoral Commission. The government has not yet succeeded in neutralising them.

    In terms of corruption you would have to be pretty stupid to try to bribe a police officer or planning official.

  • @Nonconformistradical “Since when did two wrongs make a right?” …. Uh???? How on Earth did you manage to read that out of my post? I thought I made it very clear that the recent actions of people like Owen Paterson were wrong. That’s scarcely controversial. My point is, rather, that, in most of the World – and indeed in the UK until relatively recently, that kind of low level corruption, wrong though it is, would be widely seen as unremarkable. The fact that it caused such a huge scandal and public outcry here actually shows how high our standards are and how rare that kind of corruption is in the UK today. Certainly, we should condemn that kind of behaviour, as well as the Government’s rather pathetic response, but we can do that without making things out to be worse than they actually are. An ex-partner of mine comes from a country that is a democracy, with a free press and free elections etc., and where -if what she tells me is correct – if you get arrested, bribing the police who arrested you is a plausible option. THAT is what widespread corruption looks like – it’s absolutely nothing like what we (very fortunately) have in the UK.

    As far as the FPTP electoral system is concerned – I’d love to get it replaced with something more representative, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with financial corruption.

  • Halos are slipping..
    There is little ‘new under the sun’..There was a ‘scandal’ about consultancy/second jobs back in 2012/13 and a Labour motion was put to the HoC in July, 2013; the motion stated…
    “That this House believes that, as part of a wider regulatory framework for second jobs, from the start of the next Parliament no hon. Members should be permitted to hold paid directorships or consultancies.”…
    The motion was voted down by both Conservative and Lib Dem MPs (including present members).

    According to today’s ‘Observer’, in March 2015, the rules were further relaxed so that MPs’ employment contracts would no longer need to be disclosed to the standards commissioner… I wonder how our MP’s voted on that?

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Nov '21 - 1:36pm

    @Simon R
    “As far as the FPTP electoral system is concerned – I’d love to get it replaced with something more representative, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with financial corruption.”
    But it does – by facilitating the existence of safe seats.

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