Upholding Standards; Unsettling Conventions

The Constitution and the Regulation of Political Standards

January 10, 2024

Upholding Standards; Unsettling Conventions argues that proposals for a statutory role for the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests and putting the Ministerial Code on a legal footing would give rise to serious constitutional questions and carry substantial risks of undermining effective political accountability.

The report argues that while maintaining standards is critical, this is best done through democratic means, rather than empowering unelected regulators. There are other risks relating to the expansion of the functions of appointed regulators in ways that may not actually enhance their independence, and instead expose those who are given a statutory role as political regulators to a greater risk of legal challenge.

The report critically examines several cases, including that of the former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, former Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, and a number of MPs forced into by-elections for standards issues, to conclude that the current method of accountability, which takes place in the public eye, is robust enough to bring down even the most senior politicians accused of wrongdoing – and that there is no need to hand matters over to unelected regulators, which would only mire the process in court cases and bureaucratic delays and bring the system further into disrepute.

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