Political Integrity

Integrity is a fundamental requirement for all politicians:

  • They should obey the law.
  • At the most basic level, they shouldn’t tell lies. Those who lie should at least be forced to resign.
  • They should try to keep promises and election pledges. Any  deviations should be justifiable and fully explained.  The BBC article, Nick Clegg regrets signing anti-tuition fees pledge, reported that “The Lib Dem leader and deputy PM said compromises had had to be made as part of the coalition deal.”  Politicians should not make pledges that they may not be able to keep – it is better to declare objectives, rather than make specific promises, if there is some doubt about they can be delivered.  His political career, and the fortunes of the Liberal Democratic party, suffered hugely.
  • If a politician has declared adherence to an ideology or political approach (6.2.1), people are entitled to expect that this will be brought to bear in all that individual’s dealings.
  • Politicians need to be able to persuade people to accept policies, but they should avoid trying to mislead them by using ‘spin’: communicating in a way which would be believed, would be popular, and would not draw criticism – even when the substance is unpalatable. As described in an article by Andrew Marr, How Blair put the media in a spin, Britain’s ‘New Labour’ government, under the leadership of Tony Blair, was repeatedly accused of it.
  • They should avoid using what was characterised in a Patterns of Power blog post as Lies, statistics and self-interest.
  • Politicians with integrity would use robust arguments rather than ‘sound-bites’, as Ronald Dworkin argued in his book, Is Democracy Possible Here? (p.129).
  • Politicians should not claim unnecessary or fictitious expenses. The BBC published one egregious example in July 2018, under the headline Scott Pruitt resigns: The EPA’s chief’s long list of controversies; it itemised gross misuse of public funds and conflicts of interest that brought disrepute to the administration and exemplified the political “swamp” that Donald Trump had campaigned against.

Dishonesty has led to politicians being “the least trusted profession everywhere” according to Valentino Larcinese, in an LSE lecture Saving Democracy from Politicians (page 8).

The grossest failure of integrity – corruption – is dealt with in the next chapter (7.2.5).



This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3a book, © PatternsofPower.org, 2020.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6333.htm