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Ministerial Ethics in the modern era.

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DerekC

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Mods note to @DerekC - Title and post amended slightly, because although the subject has been covered in the thread below, there is definitely an important discussion to be had about this...

Is our PM right, and are people just not interested in ministerial ethics?

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/boris-johnson-news-live-flat-brexit-b1839447.html

Boris Johnson has today dismissed the row over the funding of his Downing Street flat refurbishment, telling reporters today: “I don’t think there’s anything to see here.”
If so, what are the implications for our future governance?
 
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DarloRich

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Is our PM is right, and are people just not interested in ministerial ethics?

He hopes! Sadly I suspect he is right because there are far too many ignorant, poorly educated and frankly stupid people who lack the ability to think for themselves and instead are led, almost unknowingly, by the owners of the populist media to think that this is acceptable and since Brexit have been encouraged to think that ignorance, stupidity and the expression of the same are virtues!

Johnson and his gang have shoveled billions towards their mates for little return and people just shrug. That shows you where we are going. The future is worrying. Johnson and many of his cabinet would have had to resign in the near past. No one resigns now.
 

dosxuk

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Johnson knows he can get away with a lot by people playing the "well he got Brexit done didn't get" card on his behalf. The rest of it is done by his lovable-rogue persona that he's been cultivating for decades. He doesn't hold himself to the standards of his position and people love him for it.

The problem with all these sort of characters is they inevitably end up doing something that does upset their supporter base and end up having to leave in a hurry. His best option by far is to have a minor scandal and use that as an excuse to retire as PM and start milking the post-PM dinner club routine, while reminding everyone about "got Brexit done" (until that goes sour, then point the blame at his successors).

There is definitely echoes of the Tory collapse in the 90s amid claims (and evidence) of cronyism, donor mismanagement, bribes and jobs-for-the-boys. I'm amazed that more isn't being done by Tory HQ to get a grips on this as last time it cast then into the electoral wilderness for over a decade.
 

YorkshireBear

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The vaccination success is also being used to cover the cracks. Such as yesterday where they used van tam vaccinating Hancock to try cover the lack of protection for leaseholders, reduction by 85% of our input into UN family planning fund and also the loss of access to norweigan cod stocks.
 

DynamicSpirit

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The vaccination success is also being used to cover the cracks. Such as yesterday where they used van tam vaccinating Hancock to try cover the lack of protection for leaseholders, reduction by 85% of our input into UN family planning fund and also the loss of access to norweigan cod stocks.

Were they actually deliberately using that to cover the other stories, or was it more like a coincidence that those stories happened to be doing the rounds at the same time? Realistically, there tend to be dozens of political stories coming up most weeks, so it's inevitable that just through random chance good and bad stories are frequently going to come out the same day. And realistically, the issue of protection for leaseholders has been rumbling along for months - so it doesn't seem very plausible that the Government would deliberately arrange a vaccination to cover it this week.

Is our PM right, and are people just not interested in ministerial ethics?

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/boris-johnson-news-live-flat-brexit-b1839447.html


If so, what are the implications for our future governance?

I would say that people are interested in general impressions. They are not usually particularly interested in the minutiae of particular stories - unless there is something truly exceptional about them. And I think that's reasonable because particular individual stories are often minor and hard to understand in detail. For example - I believe I'm a lot more politically aware than most people, and frankly even I am not entirely clear exactly what Boris is supposed to have done wrong with the current wallpaper story. My best understanding is that he didn't declare a loan that would've been perfectly legal and above board if he'd declared it. If I'm mistaken there, feel free to correct me - but if my understanding is broadly correct, that seems to me to put it, as an individual news story, in the category of mind-blowingly unimportant trivia. Of course if it turned out to be part of a massive underlying culture of large-scale corruption, then that would be important, but - is there any serious evidence of that? I don't get the impression there is.

I would imagine that is precisely why Keir Starmer is pushing the sleaze angle - because that's the impression of the Government he wants to create.

More generally, in terms of ethics - I think you have to remember that Government ethics in the UK are not perfect - human nature will never be perfect - but they are massively better than what they were in past generations, and I would say massively better than you'll find in virtually any country outside Western Europe. We have loads of checks and balances and requirements to declare potential conflicts of interest etc. that didn't exist 50 or so years ago, and that has the result that even the most minor indiscretion can easily attract huge publicity. But if you compare the situation in the UK with - say - Russia, or Nigeria or Mexico, then I'd say we have a pretty good record in comparison. Obviously, you don't want to be complacent, and I do have concerns that the Tories err a bit more towards corruption than Labour or the LibDems would, but even so I would question whether our attitude towards ministerial ethics tends too much to make mountains out of molehills.
 
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DarloRich

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what Boris is supposed to have done wrong with the current wallpaper story. My best understanding is that he didn't declare a loan that would've been perfectly legal and above board if he'd declared it.

But to get to that position had to be dragged out of him and it looks like the the loan was one of convenience to cover the donation for a Tory chum. The bigger point, once that is cleared up, is what did the top tory chum get in return for his cash. Perhaps it was a massive PPE contract......................
 

DerekC

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I would say that people are interested in general impressions. They are not usually particularly interested in the minutiae of particular stories - unless there is something truly exceptional about them. And I think that's reasonable because particular individual stories are often minor and hard to understand in detail. For example - I believe I'm a lot more politically aware than most people, and frankly even I am not entirely clear exactly what Boris is supposed to have done wrong with the current wallpaper story. My best understanding is that he didn't declare a loan that would've been perfectly legal and above board if he'd declared it. If I'm mistaken there, feel free to correct me - but if my understanding is broadly correct, that seems to me to put it, as an individual news story, in the category of mind-blowingly unimportant trivia.
I find that astonishing. The rules on declaration of interest are there for a very good reason - to try to avoid political decisions being influenced by the opportunity for personal gain. And a politically aware person will know that our PM has a track record of failing to comply with those rules. He clearly has a view that rules don’t apply to him, and that is a matter of serious concern, both from the point of view of the example it sets and because of the implications for his decision making.
 

21C101

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Most of these things like the ministerial code didn't exist before the 1997 Blair government and I suspect a substantial number of people think they are over the top and an attempt by people who thrive on the minutae of bureaucracy to create a closed shop and exclude those who do not think alike.

Therefore I think if Boris was found to have broken the ministerial code and just shrugged and said oh dear, what a pity, how sad and carried on, while it would cause foaming outrage in the opposition and liberal media, I suspect it would increase his electoral support.

One of the problems Technocrats cause is having too many, too detailed rules. People then get fed up and hold the rules in contempt. Unfortunately when that happens they don't tend to distinguish between those rules that are superflous and those that are there for a good reason.

Better to have as few and simple rules as possible that can actually be enforced, than have thickets of complex rules, making enforcement impossible most of the time, which puts the law abiding majority at a disadavantage to those who have worked out they can get away with not complying (the latter over time growing in number).
 
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