Clean up of Politics
Priority A - Dealing with temptation
- Power corrupts, and we can all be tempted. Some mechanisms should be adopted to help to reduce the likelihood of temptation, and provide deterrents if temptation occurs.
- There should be an ethos of transparency, robust constitutions and accountability.
- People should be held to account for financial and commercial transactions by an effective scrutiny committee to ensure no ‘tribal’ favouritism or nepotism.
- A review of the apportionment of power should be undertaken to ensure a wiser distribution as:
- Powerlessness in lower levels of staff can cause frustration.
- Too much power may lead to senior staff believing they are infallible.
- Unitary councils should have a constitution as they currently don’t have one and this can lead to lack of transparency and limited accountability.
- Every elected member and official should have an induction and regular reminders to ensure they never forget that every pound spent is a pound hard earned by a member of the wider community and handed over in good faith for services that are valued.
Priority B - Press and publicity
The freedom of press is imperative. A voluntary code and guidelines should be established to ensure that:
- The press is more objective and not just aimed at selling papers.
- The press is more involved in local matters, and better informed about local events, people and issues.
- As it is very difficult for elected members to admit to mistakes without being pilloried disproportionately, being accused of 'U-turns' and 'flip-flopping' there should be proportional reporting allowing for reasonable human frailty.
- As political correctness leads to a person being lambasted for events decades earlier, again disproportionately; - there should be proportional reporting to allow for yesterday’s events being judged by today’s standards.
- The press should be more investigative and rigorous as they appear to have lost the confidence of the public in these areas.
- There is no benefit from the lure of being famous for fifteen minutes at whatever cost.
Priority C - Handling pressure groups
- As it is hard to know how to handle pressure groups new guidelines should be established to assist in communicating to them to ensure that:
- They are seen as good in encouraging people to participate in local events and to engage with the democratic process.
- Their potential danger in providing a focal point for potential blackmail, or a means of providing backhanders is minimised.
- The disproportionate impact of some Company lobbying which can be almost unstoppable and overcome genuine local concerns is fairly restricted.
- Registers of members’ interests should include lobbying interests, and potential conflicts of interests should certainly be published and corrective action taken.
Priority D - The blurring of distinction between right and wrong actions
- There appears to be an increase in ‘professional’ politicians, who see politics as a career choice rather than a public service. As this can lead to putting self before the good of the community there should be a review of the values code to ensure an increased emphasis to the fact that the prime role is a public service and not a career.
- The values code should take account of the fact that those who take part in politics from local to national level are representative of society as a whole. There is sin in society; therefore there will be sin in politics.
- All parties should recognise we believe there is an important place for people of faith.
- Politicians should treat people of faith with respect and dignity, as bringing something valuable to society, e.g. Street Pastors.
- All parties should recognise that Christians must be more assertive and self-confident in the gospel, by grace and by example.
- There should be more explicit teaching on standards, on service, on duty and on responsibilities. We have emphasised our rights and diminished our responsibility to one another.
Priority E - Freedom of information and transparency
- As it is difficult to get background information about any issue and the thinking around it a system should be set up which is easy to access covering all fields of interest.
- There should be full disclosure of income from all sources.
- There should be full disclosure of relationships – family and friends who may profit from a decision, and membership of organisations such as Freemasonry.
- Genuine competition should be inbuilt with regard to employment of all staff, to avoid even the suspicion of nepotism and tribalism.
- The Freedom of Information Act must be respected, including all information which has led to a particular decision.
- All parties should commit to the procedure that all Manifestos must be made in good faith, not promised then forgotten, and explanation given when important parts of a manifesto are dropped after an election.
Priority F - Conflicts of interests
In addition to the points mentioned earlier as an important factor all parties should commit to the following:
- Government must be transparent. Lack of transparency leads to cynicism and disengagement by the public. This is very dangerous for democracy.
- As a major factor is the practice of people having more than one job. In our opinion, it is desirable that one person should have one job in any legislative body. Being an Assembly Member should be a full time job. Other positions outside may be part time, and then other paid work should be proportionate in terms of hours and pay.
- Separation of council/assembly responsibilities and interests from other areas of similar work and interests, whether paid or not, whether directly or not, must be clear and transparent, and a politician who is perceived to be involved in decision making while having an interest – family, financially or other – must be seen to be separating himself or herself from that decision making process.
Looking at Romans 13:1-7 it would seem that the Bible points to certain principles regarding governance. Civic authority and government is seen as a divine gift for human benefit, and the common good, and so must reflect the benevolence of God through the good ordering of society with, as a consequence, certain powers to compel compliance. Christians are urged to seek to develop civic and personal virtues which enable them to attempt to fulfil their social and political duty as citizens.
1 Timothy 2:1-2 has the implication that there is an imperative to promote peace, respect and dignity, and the freedom both to practice religion and to meet the demands of faith. This means that Christians are to be involved in every human activity in order to bring God’s justice and righteousness. This may mean challenging a government which is not reflecting God’s purposes.