• Reading Level 5
Science | Citizenship | PSHE

The PM, the financier and a trail of sleaze

Would politics be better without politicians? A former British PM has been engulfed in a row over lobbying, which some say demonstrates the need for an entirely new way of governing. British government departments have been ordered to find out by the end of the week whether senior officials have rule-breaking second jobs. Cabinet Secretary Simon Case has asked colleagues to declare paid roles or outside interests that "might conflict" with Civil Service rules. The move comes after it emerged a top official joined a financial firm while working for the government. Conservative MPs yesterday lined up to distance themselves from their former leader, David Cameron. For them, his “slapdash and unbecoming” actions left a “bad taste in the mouth”. The remarks followed Boris Johnson ordering an inquiry into the scandal that erupted over the bankrupt supply-chain finance company Greensill. He says it will have “carte blanche” to investigate his predecessor. Cameron, who started working for Greensill in 2018, had lobbied the government – including sending texts directly to chancellor Rishi Sunak – to try to secure even more money for a company which had already received £200,000,000 in emergency loans. It has now emerged that head of the company, Lex Greensill, advised the government when Cameron was still prime minister. Dubbed Dodgy Dave by opposition MPs, Cameron found himself in more hot water as photos were published of him and Lex Greensill in Saudia Arabia, there to schmooze with its Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Many argue that politicians leaving to work for companies they regulate or buy services from encourages cronyism and sleaze in government. Among radical solutions to these problems one stands out: doing away with politicians altogether. The political theorist Hélène Landmore argues that citizens should be randomly chosen and tasked with coming up with policies. People could then vote on their proposals in referendums, without any need for politicians. She points to several examples of what are often called citizens’ assemblies. In France last year, an assembly was convened to propose new legislation to deal with climate change. Iceland created a citizens’ assembly to draft a new constitution in 2012. Doing politics this way has several advantages. People chosen by sortition will have different backgrounds, levels of education and experiences. Studies suggest that this kind of diversity results in better decisions, as more viewpoints will be considered. By contrast, Boris Johnson and David Cameron went to the same school – along with 18 other former prime ministers. Winning elections takes money and the support of powerful interests. This may bias lawmakers to act in the interests of donors or supporters. Randomly chosen lawmakers would have no such biases. They would also have no ties to their successors, so would be less able to lobby government when they leave. Real world assemblies have yet to have much impact. In Iceland, politicians simply ignored the proposed new constitution. In France, they have watered down the climate proposals. KeywordsSleaze - The name given in British politics to scandals involving MPs’ behaviour. Sleaze is often to do with money, but sometimes to do with politicians’ private lives.

Continue Reading

The Day is an independent, online, subscription-based news publication for schools, focusing on the big global issues beneath the headlines. Our dedicated newsroom writes news, features, polls, quizzes, translations… activities to bring the wider world into the classroom. Through the news we help children and teachers develop the thinking, speaking and writing skills to build a better world. Our stories are a proven cross-curricular resource published at five different reading levels for ages 5 to 19. The Day has a loyal and growing membership in over 70 countries and its effectiveness is supported by case studies and teacher endorsements.

Start your free trial Already have an account? Log in / register