Is our current crop of politicians sufficiently ethical and honourable to serve us, the People? Does it matter if Westminster and Brussels are sucking ethical behaviour out of our country to be replaced by endless deceits, scandals, regulations, meddling in our lives, taxes, borrowing, waste and in-efficiency?
Ethical behaviour towards others, ‘duty’ to us the People and individual responsibility are closely interconnected. In Nelson’s day the concept of ‘duty’ was well appreciated, hence his famous signal to the fleet at Trafalgar. Today ethical behaviour, doing what is virtuous or right by others, and duty are somewhat old-fashioned and neglected, even regarded with contempt by some to whom dedication and self-sacrifice, especially in the service of one’s country, are to be mocked. Clearly a diminished sense of principle and duty towards us to act ethically with integrity, democratic accountability or even prudent economy, led to abuse of MP’s expenses and destruction of the records by the Speaker of the House and his officials.
Yet this is not the end of the harm caused by a diminished sense of duty to us within central and local government. Most visibly there is the loss of ethical behaviour including openness, sincerity, honesty and truthfulness, compassion and need to be competent or to achieve actual meaningful results; spin and false ‘promises’ are used instead. There is also susceptibility to crony corporatism (rule by the few for the few), expediency overriding principle, kowtowing to special interest groups and repulsive behaviour, such as double standards, cover-ups, absence of remorse, rewarding incompetence and failure to protect the most vulnerable.
There is also something much more subtle present; the absence of duty or ethical requirements in legislation or their misdirection. So for example, although our society needs efficient and trustworthy business transactions in order to function, there is no duty in the Companies Act of directors towards customers. And in the Equality Act, the Public Sector Equality Duty takes precedence over protecting vulnerable children and young women from rape.
A weak sense of duty and commitment to high ethical standards by our leadership class has other more generally damaging effects on society. So for example, if a politician’s word is his or her broken promise, why should anyone aspire to higher, different or noble standards? The result is undermining the basic fabric of society, what makes it tick, such as marriage, enterprise and respect for the law. The fish can be seen to rot from the head down as self-interest replaces humanity or compassion and duties to others, at home, at work, to our communities and to society.
Yet there is cause for optimism because of the inherent or traditional goodness, virtues or ethical behaviour of us, the People, exemplified by honesty, humanity, tolerance, fairness, self-sacrifice, innovativeness and industry; we do not generally pander to base instincts. And this goodness has been present for a long time, certainly from the reign of King Alfred of Wessex, who recognised its potential. It provides a valuable building block for ethical, honourable politics; government of the People, by the People, for the People which is faithful to the best of Britishness with a strong focus on liberty, democracy, social justice, compassion and prosperity from our own efforts.
A high sense of duty or responsibility leading to strong ethical standards towards others provides a huge advantage in a competitive world, vastly improved security in a dangerous one, and more effectiveness in tackling the major problems our country faces. Their diminution actually holds us back from working together to achieve much more.
UKIP is uniquely placed to be part of an exciting, better future for all because of its strong grass roots connection and members who cross all sections of society. One day we could genuinely be proud of our parliamentarians because they represent the best in us.