News 26th Jun 2024

Seven steps to restore trust in the political class

Daniel Bruce

Chief Executive

Daniel Bruce is Chief Executive of Transparency International UK. He leads the overall strategy of Transparency International UK across all programme and policy areas. He heads up the leadership team and serves as the organisation’s senior-most representative to governments, the private sector and in the media.

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Elections are a chance to reset our politics with parties looking to the future and putting forward their plans for the years to come. They are also time for reflection. A chance to take stock of where our politics has fallen short and think about what needs to change.

That’s why Transparency International UK joined calls this week for a reset of ethics and standards in government.

I, along with dozens of civil society and business leaders, academics, former judges, civil servants and politicians from across the political spectrum, signed a letter published in The Times, setting out seven key changes we need from any incoming government.

This election offers an important chance to reverse the declining trust in our politics so we urge whoever is in government to take this opportunity when they can.

Letter to The Times

Trust in politics, and in the people and institutions of public life, is at an all-time low. This is a serious problem for the health of our democracy and is indicative of the need for substantial improvement in the governance of the UK. It must be urgently addressed by whichever party forms the next government. The Institute for Government, the UCL Constitution Unit and the UK Governance Project today issue a joint call for that government to announce, on taking office, seven key changes that would restore integrity and rebuild trust.

Essential progress can be quickly achieved by providing independent enforcement of a new ministerial code; establishing new systems for managing conflicts of interest and lobbying; improving regulation of post-government employment; ensuring appointments to the Lords are only made on merit and other public appointments are rigorous and transparent; and strengthening the independence of the honours system, including by ending prime ministerial patronage. Legislation is not necessary for most of these changes but a short bill would create the necessary powers and embed the independence of the ethics and integrity system. This election is a rare opportunity to reverse the spiral of declining trust in government and one that would be dangerous to miss. Whoever enters No 10 on July 5 must seize it.


Hannah White, director of the Institute for Government
Professor Meg Russell, director, UCL Constitution Unit
Helen MacNamara, former deputy cabinet secretary and head of the cabinet secretariat
Dominic Grieve KC, former attorney general for England and Wales
Rain Newton-Smith, director-general of the CBI
Lord Lisvane, former clerk of the House of Commons
Daniel Bruce, chief executive, Transparency International UK
Susan Hawley, executive director, Spotlight on Corruption
Jennifer Nadel, co-director, Compassion in Politics
Tom Brake , director, Unlock Democracy
Darren Hughes, chief executive, Electoral Reform Society
Professor Liz David-Barrett, director, Centre for the Study of Corruption
Professor Robert Hazell, former director, UCL Constitution Unit
Peter Riddell, former commissioner for public appointments
Dame Margaret Hodge, former chairwoman of the public accounts committee
Professor David Howarth, professor of law and public policy, University of Cambridge
Sir Jonathan Jones KC, former Treasury solicitor and head of the government legal service
Lord Burns, former Treasury permanent secretary
Lord Jay, former FCO permanent secretary
Professor Anand Menon, director of UK in a Changing Europe and professor of European politics and foreign affairs at King’s College London
Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, former president of the Supreme Court
Baroness Prashar, former first civil service commissioner
Lord Anderson of Ipswich, former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation
Lord Sumption, former justice of the Supreme Court
Baroness Hayman, former Lord Speaker
Baroness D’Souza, former Lord Speaker
Oliver Letwin, former chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Baroness Wheatcroft, former editor of The Sunday Telegraph
Philip Rycroft, former head of UK Governance Group, Cabinet Office
Philip Rutnam, former Home Office permanent secretary
Clare Moriarty, former permanent secretary, Defra
Lord McDonald of Salford, former FCO permanent Secretary
Baroness Browning, electoral commissioner 2010-12, chairwoman of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments 2014-2019, member of the House of Lords Appointments Commission 2018-23
Sir David Normington, first civil service commissioner and commissioner for public appointments 2011-16