Reputation of UK politicians at ‘low point’, says standards commissioner | UK News

The reputation of UK politicians is at a ‘low point’, says the UK’s new Independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, as he pledges to defend the ‘vast majority’ of MPs who have pledged to uphold high standards in public life.

Daniel Greenberg, who succeeds Kathryn Stone at the end of her five-year term in January, admitted that a series of scandals in recent years as well as the turmoil of the past 12 months have damaged Parliament’s reputation.

In his first interview since his appointment, the lawyer and jurist said: “This is a low point in the last decades. It’s definitely a low point in the reputation of politics and politicians… I think politicians as a class have certainly made mistakes.

However, he added: “Reputation is not always earned… We have had some very high profile, high profile and very serious cases of non-compliance with standards over the last five years or so. But in terms of numbers, we have 650 MPs and the vast majority have a strong commitment to high standards in public life.

Greenberg will be the seventh commissioner, employed by parliament rather than the government to safeguard independence, since the post was created in 1995. He has pledged to perform his new role ‘without fear or favour’ and investigate anyone had to be investigated, from backbenchers to prime ministers.

Yet he also hopes to focus on the “positive” side of his job – giving advice and support to MPs and doing outreach to the public. His years of parliamentary experience “put me in a good position to support the best and criticize the worst”, he said.

“I have a deep emotional attachment to the place and what it represents. That’s why I wanted to do [the job], because it bothers me that Parliament has a less impressive reputation than it often deserves. When you see the low level of trust between the public and parliament, politicians at all levels, you want to get involved.

Greenberg, an Orthodox Jew, was born and raised in North West London and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. The 57-year-old has spent 35 years working in Parliament, including drafting and reviewing legislation, and is an adviser on national legislation in the House of Commons.

Her predecessor provoked the ire of Tory MPs when she published a highly critical report on former cabinet minister Owen Paterson over lobbying. Boris Johnson’s involvement in the scandal marked a turning point in the former prime minister’s public image.

Greenberg said he wouldn’t shy away from investigating a politician for wrongdoing, no matter how senior they are. “My role for 35 years has been to give my opinion without fear or favor. I’ve said no, or worse, to ministers time and time again. In that regard, I think it will be a natural continuation of my experience.

He also issued a warning to MPs after Chris Bryant, the chairman of the cross-party standards committee – which monitors their conduct – revealed that some were lobbying on behalf of their colleagues. The new commissioner said he would ‘take this very seriously’ if it happened because it could ‘undermine’ the independence of the system.

Greenberg admitted the number of different standards bodies – including his own, Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievances System and the Prime Minister’s Adviser for Ministerial Interests – could be confusing to the public, but said everyone had to be able to “get along” with their own role. .

However, he indicated that Rishi Sunak should continue to fulfill the role of Ethics Counselor which has been empty since Christopher Geidt resigned in Junea day after admitting his “frustration” with Johnson’s role in the Partygate scandal.

“They said they would, and while the considerations for ministerial standards are very different to MPs, it’s a role I look forward to working with. In terms of consistency for the audience, it will be great to have that filled out,” he said.

Greenberg also intends to keep the government on its promise to support plans to crack down on MPs’ second jobs. “Do I have a role to play in making sure it doesn’t end up in the tall grass? Yes, I do,” he said. “This shouldn’t be in the long grass… This is a serious matter as it goes to the heart of reputation and integrity.”

However, he said there was no “single, simple answer” to the question of whether MPs should have outside interests. “There is value in members having ongoing experience outside of the Chamber – and there are dangers in members having too many or conflicting roles outside of the Chamber. It’s a balance that has to be found. »

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