By Stuart Littlewood
‘People in public life are not always as clear as they should be about where the boundaries of acceptable conduct lie.’ – Nolan Committee.
“Who will own Mitt Romney if he is elected?” asks Philip Giraldi after Romney’s trip to Israel to raise campaign funds. The Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1966, he explains, prohibits the involvement of foreigners in funding election campaigns.
Another question is this: how do politicians think they can get away with it? Does fighting an election with foreign cash never strike them as dangerous, utterly immoral and downright wrong?
So what to do? The solution is actually very simple and, as it happens, ready-made. You introduce easy-to-remember ground rules, assuming you can find a government honest enough and courageous enough to implement and enforce them.
You don’t even have to invent them. A suitable set of rules already exists. It’s called the Seven Principles of Public Life.
Back in 1994, after the British government was rocked by the “cash for questions” scandal and rising anger among the public about the conduct of some politicians, the then prime minister John Major set up the Committee on Standards in Public Life headed by a judge, Lord Nolan.
“People in public life are not always as clear as they should be about where the boundaries of acceptable conduct lie. This we regard as the principal reason for public disquiet. It calls for urgent remedial action,” said the Nolan Committee. What they produced was a set of ground rules that even the dumbest politician could understand – The Seven Principles of Public Life…
Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.
Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.
In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.
These easy-to-remember principles apply to all aspects of public life and to all who serve the public in any way, in any country.
They underpin our MPs’ Code of Conduct, which states that in carrying out their parliamentary and public duties Members are expected to observe those Seven Principles and they will be taken into account when investigating any allegations of breaches of the Code.
Members are also required to “base their conduct on a consideration of the public interest, avoid conflict between personal interest and the public interest and resolve any conflict between the two, at once, and in favour of the public interest.”
No Member shall act as a paid advocate in any proceeding of the House, and the acceptance of a bribe, including any fee, compensation or reward in connection with the promotion of, or opposition to, any business of the House is contrary to the law of Parliament.
Furthermore Members must “conscientiously” register their interests in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
The Seven Principles neatly represent people’s expectations of the way their public servants should behave. Sadly the reality is still very different, mainly because they are not enforced.
The Standards Committee’s remit does not include investigating individual allegations of misconduct. And the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is supposed to investigates allegations against individual MPs but only seems interested in expenses-fiddling,
So nothing much has changed. MPs are still at liberty to act in the interest of a foreign military power at the expense of our own national interests, and to let foreign influence cloud their judgment, even though such conduct is clearly at odds with the second Principle, namely Integrity.
The various Friends of Israel organisations still flourish at the heart of government, waving the flag of the Zionist regime and going to great lengths to influence those in power at Westminster, even flying them to Israel to have their heads filled with Zionist propaganda. A good many, it seems, reach positions of power with FoI help, and it is said that membership is an essential stepping stone to promotion. 80 percent of the Conservative MPs are believed to be signed-up members, and the Conservative Friends of Israel has become the largest affiliated group in the party.
Senior Conservatives try to justify this un-British state of affairs by insisting that Israel is “a force for good in the world” and “in the battle for the values that we stand for – for democracy against theocracy, for democratic liberal values against repression – Israel’s enemies are our enemies and this is a battle in which we all stand together”.
Of course, the British people should not have to tolerate dual allegiance in their Parliament and Government, since it obviously puts national security at risk.
Mitt Romney and many others in Congress would have their work cut out trying to comply with these simple and obvious rules.
Over here we are asking the same questions as Philip Giraldi. Who owns prime minister David Cameron, a self-proclaimed Zionist who has pledged undying support – in OUR name – for the toxic state of Israel?
Who owns foreign secretary William Hague, who rattles his sabre at Iran at every opportunity and loves ratcheting up sanctions designed to cripple Iran’ economy and impoverish its people, and who has been a loyal Friend of Israel since his schooldays?
And why aren’t the Seven Principles, especially numbers Two and Seven, rigorously enforced?
Answers on a postcard please…
-Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, can now be read on the internet by visiting www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.