The recent scandals to hit parliament prove the urgent need for an independent Ethics Commission, the think-tanks Democracy Network and Compassion in Politics have said in a joint statement.
Parliament recently voted to suspend Peter Bone MP over allegations of bullying. His suspension was followed last night by the arrest of Crispin Blunt MP on suspicion of rape and the possession of controlled substances. These are just the latest scandals to hit parliament after the suspension of MPs such as Chris Pincher, David Warburton, Rob Roberts, Julian Knight, and Geraint Davies all on charges of abuse, bullying, or harassment.
Compassion in Politics and the Democracy Network argue that these incidents cannot be seen in isolation and are instead the product of an unsafe political culture and a decline in standards in public life. They claim the combination of lax regulation, antiquated procedures, and hierarchical systems has created a "breeding ground" for unethical conduct.
The two organisations state that only a comprehensive and holistic response by all parties can prevent a further deterioration in standards and the repeating cycle of misbehaviour. Today they have issued a call for every party to back the creation of an independent Ethics Commission charged with overseeing standards, conduct, and culture in parliament. At its recent conference the Labour Party voted to endorse this proposal, which has been spearheaded by Debbie Abrahams, Co-Chair of the All-Party Group for Compassionate Politics.
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Jessie Joe Jacobs, Director of the Democracy Network, said:
"This awful and at times, devastating behaviour by people who are elected to serve the people and govern our nation can no longer be tolerated. We clearly now need more than political leaders paying lip-service to the need for change; if they are serious, they would tackle the issue at root - by changing the culture of parliament, improving the standards MPs are expected to adhere to, and creating a body capable of enforcing them. Our democracy and parliament itself is desperately in need of renewal."
Jennifer Nadal, Co-Director of Compassion in Politics, said:
"We need nothing short of an overhaul of our political culture in Britain. And while Westminster must be a major player in that process, we just as urgently need to engage the public in fashioning a political system worthy of representing their needs, interests, and concerns. That is why as well as creating an independent and fully-resourced Ethics Commission, we also believe that Commission should immediately go out into the country and work with the public to identify how they want our politics to serve them. The minute MPs start to act as if normal rules don't apply to them, democracy starts to unwind. Our job is repair the political contract between MPs and their constituents. If we can we will not only build a better politics but a better country."
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