Perspectives Across Frontiers
New Horizons in Public Policy series
Edited by Leo W.J.C. Huberts, Jeroen Maesschalk and Carole L. Jurkiewicz
Chapter 12: In Defence of Politicking: Private, Personal and Public Interests
Robert P. Kaye INTRODUCTION In the 1990s the British political system experienced profound ethical change. Prompted by concerns about the behavior of backbench MPs, political appointments to quangos, and the revolving door between government and private industry, the Government appointed a specialist Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL), initially under Lord Nolan, which set about examining – and reforming – areas of government that gave rise to concerns over public integrity. Nolan was not an attempt to start from ﬁrst principles. Its reforms were designed to work within the framework of institutional opinion. Nonetheless the ensuing reforms were not immune to an ‘ethics backlash’. Just as writers such as Anechiarico and Jacobs (1996) and Mackenzie and Hafken (2002) have pointed to ways in which ethics measures can act antithetically to good government and stymie public administration, so in the last three to four years post-Nolan reforms1 have been criticized as excessive, burdensome, disproportionate, outmoded, irrelevant – a critique that has resulted in a rolling back of the ethics regime for Members of Parliament and a CSPL report on ‘getting the balance right’ in the rules for local councillors and public appointments. This chapter uses examples from the new ethics regimes in British local government and the House of Commons in an attempt to provide a more theoretical understanding of the limits of public integrity policies. By concentrating on institutions with legislative functions, the cases bring into sharp focus the potential clash between public integrity and democratic representation; between independence and neutrality; and...
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