Saturday, November 17, 2012

Seven simple rules to ensure politicians represent their people, not foreign states

By Stuart Littlewood

Stuart Littlewood argues that basic rules of conduct for public officials, such as Britain’s “Seven Principles of Public Life”, should guard against politicians acting on behalf of foreign interests, whether Mitt Romney in the US or David Cameron and William Hague in the UK. But sadly, he laments, even in Britain the Seven Principles are not enforced.
"People in public life are not always as clear as they should be about where the boundaries of acceptable conduct lie.” (Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life)
"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?
Apparently not.

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 theCommittee 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:

1. Selflessness
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.

2. Integrity
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.

3. Objectivity
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.

4. Accountability
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.

5. Openness
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.

6. Honesty
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.

7. Leadership
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 legislators’

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