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What the Global Corruption Barometer means for UK politics

Written by Nick Maxwell on Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Global Corruption Barometer, published yesterday by TI, indicates that there are deep problems with UK politics; problems of public mistrust, perceptions of state capture by powerful interests, and, above all, complacency.

 


The Global Corruption Barometer published yesterday by TI, indicates that there are deep problems with UK politics; problems of public mistrust, perceptions of state capture by powerful interests, and, above all, complacency.

Of UK respondents to the survey, 67 per cent view political parties as being affected by corruption. Decisively on lobbying, 90 per cent believe that the UK Government is run by a few big entities acting in their own interest.

Following a Sunday Times lobbying undercover sting last month Downing Street indicated that they would put forward a Bill to authorise a register of lobbyists by July 2013. However talks between parties broke down after the issue of the register was lumped in with union support. In the meantime Labour has become embroiled in the Falkirk selection scandal and is engaging in a very public debate about the future of the Union link with Labour.

The Global Corruption Barometer should remind the political class that what is currently being considered is too little and too piecemeal against the scale of the problem. 62 per cent of UK respondents think that the Government’s actions are ineffective in tackling corruption.

There is an urgent need to consider the full breadth of issues around how we can achieve open and transparent democracy in the UK. Beyond a lobbyists’ register this needs to include looking at issues of political donations, the revolving door in Whitehall and Westminster, accountability, honours and the full sweep of lobbying transparency and regulation.

On lobbying alone, the issue is brought into focus by the astoundingly poor quality of information available to citizens on lobbying meetings and access to their government’s Ministers. As the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee found some departments take up to 8 months to publish meeting details on lobbying meetings with Ministers. The level of detail in meeting disclosures also needs to be radically improved, such that obscure terms like ‘general discussion’ aren’t the norm, and the format of meeting data needs to be standardised with a view to publishing all ministerial and official meetings on one website, rather than on many different Government websites. The same nature of transparent lobbying should be considered at an official and a Parliamentary level as well, including looking at party conferences.

Even the current regime for transparency of public information needs to be defended. The ‘Freedom of Information Act 2000’ Early Day Motion is an attempt to guard off emerging proposals to restrict Freedom of Information requests on cost grounds. While by no means perfect, the Freedom of Information system is one of the few ways that citizens and civic society can hold the government to account. It has been hugely significant in terms of enabling public debate about key issues of public spending, policy and access to government. It needs support.

The UK data from the Global Corruption Barometer should be a wake-up call. The question is whether our political parties and civil society can grasp the sheer scale of the problem.

 

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Read 17291 times Last modified on Tuesday, 24 November 2015 12:18
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Nick Maxwell

Nick is TI-UK's Head of Strategic Engagement. You can view his full bio here, and tweet him @NickJMaxwell.

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