Welcome to my day: 30 October 2023 – rules, regulation… and enforcement

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to another Monday.

It’s a quiet week at Westminster, as we await what is likely to be the last King’s Speech before the General Election. In terms of content, I suspect that we’ll see more “culture war” legislation proposals but what will say a lot is any legislation which smacks of “sowing the ground with salt” – actions proposed to limit the actions of an incoming Labour government. Given the Government’s actions to make the completion of HS2 “difficult” if not impossible, it isn’t hard to envisage similar acts of “legislative vandalism”. It’s just another indicator of an administration utterly contemptuous of the unwritten rules of governance and democracy.

But it is a reflection of an increasing problem in our democracy – that those who break rules are not held accountable.

There are those who would argue that the election of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson as Prime Minister was where the rot set in as far as British politics is concerned. And yes, his contempt for rules was obvious from day one. But his behaviour was exactly as predicted by a range of observers – people who knew him, had worked with him and had employed him – and Conservative MPs voted for him anyway. The idea that rules were for “little people” was already fairly well established. The accusations made against the likes of Peter Bone, Owen Paterson and Chris Pincher strongly suggest that, as they all pre-date Johnson’s tenure at 10 Downing Street.

And that’s why if rules and regulations are to mean anything, there have to be consequences when they’re broken.

It’s also something that political parties are not terribly good at. There is often a desire to will the ends without ensuring that you have someone to enforce them. You can, for example, pass all the planning legislation you like but, unless local authorities have the means to engage planning officers, building control officers and enforcement officers, all that you have is a headline in the newspapers. Talk of a rules-based environment is, just that, talk, without the full range of compliance tools.

I do get it. Rules enforcement isn’t “sexy” and politicians are sometimes uncomfortable with celebrating the fact that they have employed more “jobsworths”. But if we’ve learned one thing from the past decade or so, it’s that the public generally don’t like people to “get away with it”, whatever “it” is. And my personal experience is that, whilst most people are inherently honest, those who are less so are emboldened by the sense that nobody is watching.

So, is there anyone out there writing a manifesto that calls for more and better compliance activity across the board, or for better, simpler legislation that makes compliance efforts more focussed?

Elsewhere, it’s AGM season for Local and Regional Parties, and I’ll be attending the East of England Regional Conference on Saturday. Given that I can walk there in about twelve minutes, it seems only right that I should turn up. But what’s (been) happening in the other English Regions? Why not let us know, or write a preview to encourage more people to turn out or run for Regional office? You know where to find us…

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and a former Regional Secretary in both London and the East of England.

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  • All very true. However we need to examine the concept of power. In planning applications, as an example, it helps a lot if the applicant has a lot of influence, such as a large developer. An individual often finds it more difficult if they have limited resources and find that those with resources object.
    It would help a lot if we had suggestions about how to level the playing field for those with limited resources.

  • “The House of Commons is notoriously incompetent and wayward when it tries to deal with moral issues, offences against the supposed customs of the time or plain dishonesty or negligence by its Members or servants.” Jo Grimond, Memoirs, 1979.

  • Peter Hirst 4th Nov '23 - 12:39pm

    Elected representatives’ election to office is conditional. This is part of the unwritten constitution that has governed our governance for centuries. When it breaks down as it has the solution must be to form a codified set of rules that is overseen by a body above party politics.

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