Tag Archives: ethics

Rishi Sunak asks ethics advisor to investigate Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs

Here’s the current situation: Rishi Sunak has asked his (so-called) independent ethics advisor to “fully investigate” whether Nadhim Zahawi complied with the Ministerial Code in failing to make correct tax payments at the appropriate time.

This will be a big test for Sir Laurie Magnus. Smart thinkers say the purpose of an ethics advisor is to whitewash dodgy behaviour by ministers; if that doesn’t happen, if the decision goes against those in power, then the ethics advisor doesn’t last long in the post. We’ve seen that in recent years.

This is the story so far:

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The story of the Tory sleaze adviser is the story of Tory sleaze

This is hilarious.

It seems nobody wants to apply for the job of ethics adviser to the Tory government because they’ll only show that the entire Tory government is a cabal of crooks.

Rishi Sunak doesn’t want that to happen, of course – meaning that he’d put strong curbs on whoever became adviser anyway.

Or, as A Different Bias‘s Phil Moorhouse put it: “He can’t give the adviser the freedom they need to do their job properly, but nor can he persuade anyone to trash their reputation for the sake of being a puppet. This could damage Sunak’s claims to be governing with integrity further.”

Mr Moorhouse’s comments in the video clip are extremely amusing if you like a bit of schadenfreude. See for yourself:

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Why does Liz Truss think she doesn’t need an ethics advisor?

Liz Truss: Ethics? Integrity? It seems more accurate to suggest she’s just another Tory liar.

Tory leadership contender Liz Truss has said she would not appoint a new ethics advisor to replace the one who quit in protest at Boris Johnson, because she has “always acted with integrity”.

Let’s think about that for a moment, shall we?

In October 2014, as Environment Secretary, Truss announced that her number one priority was bringing back fox hunting, after the Country Land and Business Association lobbied both the Tories and UKIP (remember them?) and it was suggested that UKIP could gain half a million votes if the Tories refused to commit themselves to repealing the Hunting Act.

So it seems Truss wanted to restore fox hunting in order to safeguard Tory votes, rather than because there was anything wrong with the ban. Ethical? Acting with integrity?

In 2016, as Justice Minister, Truss oversaw a jail riot caused by overcrowding and a lack of prison officers. Standards were considered “unacceptable” and fell short of “basic levels of decency” because of the regime inaugurated by her forerunner Chris Grayling and continued by Truss herself. Ethical? Acting with integrity?

In August that year, Truss affirmed the Conservative government’s plan to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace your rights with a much more limited British bill of rights (although the idea was later dropped because other Tory MPs opposed it. Ethical? Acting with integrity?

In 2017 it was revealed that Truss had presided over the largest number of prison suicides since records began in 1978.

In February that year it was revealed that inmates at a privatised prison were incapacitated by drugs, officers sometimes left on their own to manage large groups of inmates, and inmates threatening staff – on Truss’s watch.

That same month, Truss earned her nickname “Lukewarm Liz” after she failed to rebuke newspapers for calling the judiciary “enemies of the people” after the Supreme Court ruled that Parliament should vote on whether to trigger the process of leaving the European Union. It was suggested that her reluctance to defend the judges risked “undermining” society.

Those are just a few examples from a few years ago.

But it seems clear that ethics and integrity are sorely lacking from Ms Truss’s psychological makeup.

Indeed, her claim that the existence of “numerous advisers and independent bodies” was “one of the problems we have got in this country” suggests that she wants even less scrutiny of her decisions. Doesn’t that denote a guilty conscience to you?

And she said she would strengthen the Tory Party whips’ office – the organisation that kept a dossier on party members’ sexual (and other?) … indiscretions… in order to blackmail them? Is that an ethical way to behave? Is it acting with integrity?

It isn’t, is it? And her claim to be doing so would therefore appear to be dishonest. Do we really want yet another brazen liar in 10 Downing Street?

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Watchdog chief says public need reassurance that standards are being maintained

Lord Evans of Weardale: the standards committee chair is a former chief of MI5.

Boris Johnson’s rewrite of the Ministerial Code is leaving the public with questions to answer about whether standards are being eroded, according to a watchdog chief.

Lord Evans of Weardale, chairman of the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life, questioned Johnson’s decision to relax the rules so ministers no longer have to resign over minor breaches of the Ministerial Code, while refusing to allow investigations to happen independently.

Instead, ethics advisor Lord Geidt must still seek the prime minister’s consent before investigating – and Johnson may veto any such investigation.

Lord Evans said the change, while an improvement on the previous position, meant the adviser was still not “sufficiently independent”.

Lord Evans said:

“I think you’ve got to raise questions when you see the outcome of the police investigations and the Sue Gray report, and one or two of the other issues that have come up – I was outspoken myself in regard to the Owen Paterson business.

“So, there has been a lot of public disquiet about standards over the last six months.

“It’s one of those things that comes up from time to time and it’s really important to reassure people that we want to continue to maintain decent standards in this country.”

He continued:

“In terms of public confidence, I think independent investigation of breaches is critical.

“And that’s why we recommended both that there should be independent right to initiate investigations and also that, you know, when it’s a very minor breach, it might be more sensible to say, well, you don’t have to resign but there are other penalties.

“Our concern is that the Government chose to accept the range of penalties but did not accept fully the recommendation for independent investigation and determination of the facts.”

And he said it is up to Lord Geidt to decide his next move after Johnson insisted his police fine over a Covid rule-busting birthday bash did not constitute a breach of the ministerial code (because he had rewritten the Code to ensure that it did not).

The standards watchdog chief told the Today programme:

“He’s made his position very clear, that he felt in his report that was published this week that it was important that the Prime Minister should recognise that the partygate allegations and the outcome of that do have implications for the application of the ministerial code.

“Of course, the Prime Minister has subsequently written to him explaining why he believed that he didn’t breach the ministerial code in that regard.

“So, obviously, Lord Geidt will be giving consideration to what has been said. But obviously that’s a decision for him, to make up his mind on where he goes with this next.”

It seems Lord Evans is suggesting his fellow peer should protest the prime minister’s conduct in some way.

And why not? One does not prove oneself innocent of rule-breaking by re-writing the rules – nor does one demonstrate one’s own high ethical standards by refusing to allow independent investigation of one’s behaviour.

Source: Public need reassurance on Government standards, says ex-MI5 chief

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Tory cronyism: Johnson appoints Bullingdon chum to ethics committee. Contradiction?

Two-fingered salute:: Boris Johnson’s answer to those of us who accuse him of cronyism.

We point out their corruption by taking them to court for giving cash to their cronies, and the Tories simply shrug and do it again.

Boris Johnson has appointed a former Bullingdon Club colleague, Ewen Fergusson, to sit on Whitehall’s “sleaze” watchdog – the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Is this so his friend can rubber-stamp all Johnson’s own offences as being well within reasonable standards of behaviour?

Questions have already been raised about the appointment, which was approved by Johnson, as you can read in this Guardian article.

And the reaction outside the Tory bubble has been… as one might expect:

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‘Richie’: Sunak’s referral to ethics watchdog over wife’s vast wealth won’t address the real problem

The paper trail: financial holdings of Rishi Sunak, his wife Akshata Murty and her family are explained in this image, originally published by The Guardian.

How can a man as insanely rich as Rishi Sunak is – through the wealth of his wife and her family – honestly have any understanding of the struggles normal people are suffering as a result of his many decisions to cut their income?

He can’t.

That is the concern that we face after the revelation that the Tory Chancellor did not declare wealth larger than that of the Queen in the register of ministerial interests.

It won’t be addressed by Lord Evans, chair of the committee on standards in public life, because there is no rule requiring him to.

So the referral to the ethics watchdog by Labour’s Tonia Antoniazzi and James Murray may be seen as a pointless waste of time.

Here are the facts, neatly summed up in a couple of tweets:

More information is in the Guardian stories here and here.

According to the second of those stories, the Labour MPs’ referral to the ethics watchdog arises because they are concerned that Sunak’s wife’s holdings may create a potential conflict between his public and private interests.

But the Treasury has already said that Sunak “followed the ministerial code to the letter” in his declarations.

It seems he met the government’s then head of propriety and ethics, Helen MacNamara, to decide what needed to be declared before he joined the Treasury.

However: as This Writer learned only last week, a person can comply with the letter of the law and still be doing something wrong.

It doesn’t surprise me that Labour MPs are trying to tease out the nature of any wrong-doing by Sunak, because it was Labour that mistreated me.

Despite adhering to the letter of its rules on investigating anti-Semitism allegations against me, Labour ignored the requirements of its actual procedures in order to falsify a case against me, and manufactured an incorrect verdict. I had to go to court to have the facts revealed.

Will anything come of an investigation into Sunak? Doubtful. There’s no law against being ignorant of the way the other half live.

But if we know that Sunak is so far removed from the rest of us, we may also draw logical conclusions about his ability to create policies for everybody in the UK, no matter how deprived – or his lack of any such ability.

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