The Committee on Standards in Public Life is embarking on an enquiry into the Electoral Commission and key issues such as voter registration, arrangements for postal voting and standards of propriety in financing political parties, issues that have been of interest on this weblog for some time.
As Blair stalls on appointing a Labour representative to the enquiry the chairman, Sir Alistair Graham, has gone to the media…
From The Scotsman
TONY Blair has made his government seem as sleazy as the previous Conservative administration because he “ignored” the importance of upholding of standards, Britain’s standards watchdog has warned.
Sir Alistair Graham, the chairman of the committee on standards in public life, accused the Prime Minister of not taking sufficient action to mitigate the string of scandals that has tarnished his government.
The Labour government was paying a heavy price, as public confidence in ministers plummeted, he said in an unprecedentedly robust attack.
“I think it’s a major error of judgment,” Sir Alistair said.
“Opinion polls [show] the public think this government is as sleazy as the last.
“He has paid a heavy price for ignoring standards. We would have preferred more positive support from the Prime Minister. We suspect he is pretty lukewarm to the work we do.”
The standards watchdog’s warning was underscored by a poll that showed that more than half of voters want the Prime Minister to face criminal charges over the loans-for-peerages scandal. An ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph showed that
53 per cent of the 1,004 voters surveyed wanted to see Mr Blair prosecuted, and 36 per cent feel he should not face charges.
Reports also surfaced that the Metropolitan Police investigation triggered by the SNP’s complaint was tightening its inquiry around senior Downing Street aides. Although Sir Alistair, a former head of the Police Complaints Commission, has criticised the government before, the severity of his latest attack is unprecedented.
He cited examples of sleaze-mired behaviour that had shaken public confidence in the government. These included Mr Blair’s reluctance to make progress in enforcing the code of conduct for ministers, despite a string of resignations from Labour ministers who had breached it.
Sir Alistair also expressed concern about the disclosures over John Prescott’s affair with his diary secretary, Tracey Temple, suggesting this kind of behaviour not only poured scorn on the minister, but could endanger the careers of civil servants.
In contrast, Sir Alistair was glowing about the Chancellor Gordon Brown’s commitment to restoring integrity to government and relinquishing powers of patronage once he takes over as Prime Minister.
Sir Alistair said he had been encouraged by the attitude of Mr Brown – Mr Blair’s expected successor – who he met last month.
“I was pleasantly surprised how interested he was in the issues. I think that is a helpful sign,” he said.
Jim Knight, the education minister, sprang to Mr Blair’s defence, insisting he was serious about “cleaning up politics”.
He pointed out that it was the Prime Minister who appointed Sir Alistair and had set up a new process of monitoring.
Progress was also being made to tighten up party funding, he said.