So much for the Seven Principles that MPs are supposed to abide by

Selflessness, integrity, objectivity: our representatives are coming up a bit short


Many thanks to Lord Bew, Chairman of the Committee on Public Standards, for holding an event this morning to remind us of the Seven Principles of Public Life, which have guided the ethical conduct of MPs for the past 19 years.

I have to confess that I had quite forgotten that there were Seven Principles of Public Life. My attention must have wandered on that day in 1995 when Lord Nolan, the first chairman of the Committee on Public Standards, first set them out.

I wonder, also, whether the committee itself has been bedevilled by a similar absent-mindedness. When I visited its website this morning and entered “Seven Principles of Public Life” into the search engine, up popped the message – “This is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it? It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for.”

However, the important point is not what you or I know about those Seven Principles but whether the MPs know them and abide by them. To take those principles one by one:

1. Selflessness. Where to begin looking for examples of selfless behaviour by our MPs? Back in 1995, the year the Principles first came into force, the Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken grandly announced: “If it falls to me to start a fight to cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play, so be it.” With those words, he selflessly embarked upon a libel case against The Guardian which would have earned him a pile of money if he had won, but it was proved that he was lying, and he went to prison for perjury.

2. Integrity. Aitken is not the only MP to do a spot of porridge since the inauguration of the Seven Principles. Five MPs, all Labour, have been jailed for fiddling their expenses. Others were frankly lucky not to end up in court.

3. Objectivity. Try listening to Prime Ministers’ Question as David Cameron and Ed Miliband pummel each other with conflicting statistics about, say, the NHS, and assess for yourself the overall level of objectivity.

4. Accountability. At the 2005 general election, Labour received the votes of 21.6 per cent of the electorate – 35.2 per cent of those who voted – enabling them to rule with a commanding majority for five years. In 2010, the Conservatives received the votes of 23.7 per cent of the  electorate - 36.4 per cent of votes cast. But the Tories do not intend to let trade union leaders call a strike on majorities achieved in ballots where the turn-out was low.

5. Openness. “I believe that when you have got something wrong, you have got to fess up and get on with it” – said the Tory MP, Patrick Mercer, as he resigned from the Commons - 11 months after being caught bang to rights, on camera, taking money to lobby for the Fijian government. Very open.

6. Honesty. Yeah, yeah, yeah

7. Leadership. 'We not only saved the world...” Gordon Brown told the Commons, on 10 December 2008. Now that is leadership! How sad we never heard what they did in addition, as his words were drowned in laughter.

I'm tired of hearing about Israel and Palestine
Apple doesn't like vaginas, and they're not alone
What the media isn't telling us about the Middle East

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower