Integrity is important for us all – but especially for those in positions of leadership, says Tim Farron MP
Former prime minister, David Cameron, has been lobbying government ministers on behalf of a finance company called Greensill Capital. Whether anybody broke any rules, we don’t yet know but this affair has raised enough concern for Number 10 to launch a review that will be conducted by lawyer Nigel Boardman on behalf of the Cabinet Office.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has published a text exchange he had with David Cameron on this matter and the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said that, while he did have a drink with Mr Cameron and Lex Greensill in 2019, he behaved in an entirely correct way.
MPs shouldn’t give special treatment to those who have got enough money to pay a lobbyist… I cannot see how that is just, fair or equitable.
Government spokespeople say that this shows they’ve been open, are taking the accusations seriously and reviewing them - and I can see their point. Labour’s Rachel Reeves said that this was the government trying to kick accusations of bad behavior into the long grass. And I can see her point too. Having a review - that will presumably take weeks or months - does allow the government to make this difficult story disappear from the headlines, in the hope that everyone will have forgotten about the affair before too long.
Integrity in leadership
Even without this review, we know that the former prime minister was a paid advisor for a firm and that he used his contacts with current ministers to talk to them on behalf of that firm. In this case, we don’t yet know whether there is formal guilt. But, in general, we really should care about integrity in leadership.
If we care at all about integrity and leadership, then politicians must be held accountable, no matter how senior they are, or were
2 Corinthians 8:21 tells us we should take pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord, but also in the eyes of people. Titus 2:7 says: “In everything, set them an example by doing what is good.” Proverbs 21:3 explains that to do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. In other words, do the right thing. Be seen to do the right thing. And especially be seen to do the right thing when you are a powerful person.
We should not be neutral
I don’t want to moralise, be pompous or partisan here. All have sinned, and all have the offer of forgiveness. But as Christians, while we should be gentle and forgiving, we are not called to be neutral when it comes to integrity in public life, and especially in leadership.
When someone goes to see their MP in their surgery and asks them to lobby the government to ensure more affordable homes get built, or farmers get a fair price for their environmental work, or asylum seekers are treated with dignity, MPs should help them. They shouldn’t give special treatment to those who have got enough money to pay a lobbyist to fight their corner - including a company that has a lobbyist who used to be prime minister. I cannot see how that is just, fair or equitable.
Facing the consequences
In recent times, we have seen examples of senior ministers found guilty of bullying and of making favorable government decisions to large party donors. In neither of these cases have there been any serious consequences for those ministers. At the risk of sounding like my dad, in the good old days ministers would have resigned on the spot for this sort of thing, or been sacked if they wouldn’t go of their own accord. Now, the government’s strategy seems to be: if you can talk it out for a few days, then the media and the public will get bored and the offending minister can just stay put.
If we believe in justice, then we must say that even politicians are innocent unless proved guilty. But if it’s clear that there is guilt, and if we care at all about integrity and leadership, then politicians must be held accountable, no matter how senior they are, or were.