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Ethics in Politics

This is the first of six posts inspired by the thoughts and words of Alistair Campbell and Rory Stewart in their highly successful quality podcast The Rest Is Politics. Whilst they have inspired much thought in my old nogging I have chosen the following:

Ethics in Politics

Truth in Politics

Just Wars

Winning the Peace

Rethinking Politics

Referendum (refering to the Lisbon Treaty)

HP Sauce sachet
HP Sauce showing the Houses of Parliament

The first subject I've perused is Ethics in Politics. This has been an issue that has been highly relevant in their discussions especially those about Boris Johnson. But here I will try and depersonalise my thoughts.

The downfall of politicians by scandal is often thought to be about sex, money, or drugs. Indeed it used to be the old joke that political scandals hinged upon what a politician was denied in their youth: for Labour it was money; for Tories it was sex. But this is confusing morals with ethics.

The simple fact is the morals of sex, money and drugs often do not have an impact outside the private domain unless dishonesty or corruption are involved. The private life of a politician may form part of their character and people may judge this. However, it does not determine whether they are fit and able to do the job.

The politician has a reasonable right to privacy. Whether a politician is moral or not is to hold the politician to a set of rules. Whilst this may be connected to ethics, it is, in my opinion, a slightly different argument.

Ethics for the politician is about what a person should do and being accountable for what they do. Good ethics will see the politician behaving well and considering the effect of their action on others. Even if a politician "gets it wrong" he can still act ethically by being accountable.

In our democracy it requires accountability to Parliament and ultimately to the electorate in whose interests the politician should act to the best of their ability. This accountability means the politician should be prepared to pay the price of resignation or dismissal when appropriate.

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