THE reputation of UK politicians is at a “low point”, Westminster’s new standards commissioner has said.
The UK’s new independent parliamentary commissioner for standards, Daniel Greenberg, said that a spate of scandals in the last few years, and the political instability of the last 12 months, had lowered Westminster’s reputation.
Speaking to The Guardian, he said: “It’s a low point within recent decades. It’s definitely a low point in the reputation of politics and politicians … I think politicians as a class definitely have made some mistakes.”
He went on to say that, despite “serious breaches” of standards, many politicians had still acquitted themselves well.
Greenberg added: “The reputation isn’t always deserved … We’ve had some very significant, high-profile and very serious cases of breach of standards in the past five or so years. But in terms of numbers, we’ve got 650 MPs and the vast majority have strong commitment to high standards in public life.”
Greenberg will become the seventh commissioner to hold the role when Kathryn Stone’s five-year term comes to an end in January. The position holder is employed by Parliament rather than The Government to protect the official’s independence.
The new commissioner has promised to fulfil his role “without fear or favour” and to investigate whoever needs to be, whether it is a backbencher or a prime minister.
He said: “My role over 35 years has been to give my opinion without fear or favour. I’ve said no, or even worse things, to ministers on many occasions. In that respect, I think this will be a natural continuation of my experience.”
He also signalled that Rishi Sunak should look to fill the ethics adviser position which has been vacant since Christopher Geidt resigned in June, one day after admitting “frustration” with Boris Johnson’s involvement in the partygate scandal.
Greenberg said: “They’ve said they’re going to do it, and although the considerations involved with ministerial standards are significantly different from MPs’, it is a role I look forward to liaising with. In terms of coherence for the public, it will be very good to have that filled.”
The incoming commissioner also signalled he would look to keep the Government to its promise of cracking down on MPs’ second jobs.
He said: “Do I have a role in making sure this doesn’t get kicked into the long grass? Yes, I do.
“It shouldn’t be in the long grass … It’s a serious question because it goes to the heart of reputation and integrity.”
He added there was no “single, simple answer” on MPs’ outside interests.
He said: “There is a value in members having a continuing experience outside the House – and there are dangers in members either having too many, or conflicting, roles outside the House. It is a balance that needs to be struck.”