Matthew Parris Matthew Parris

Who regulates the regulators?

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This isn’t about David Cameron and Greensillgate; it isn’t about Boris Johnson and wallpapergate or Jennifer-Arcurigate. It isn’t about Westferrygate and the illegal planning approval (later reversed) given to a big Tory donor by the responsible minister (Robert Jenrick) for that grotesque development. Nor about Mr Jenrick’s department’s awards under the Towns Fund, which the public accounts select committee found had ‘every appearance of being politically motivated’. Nor is it about (Lord) Edward Lister and the late Sir Jeremy Heywood and twohatsgate, nor about Len McCluskey, Joe Anderson, Paul Flanagan and Flanagangate in Liverpool.

Some of these men (the last two) have been the subject of police inquiries and one is on bail. Others have not been accused of criminal activity but only of morally dubious behaviour. Maybe some or all of them are entirely innocent. In very different ways, all have been accused of behaving disgracefully, but commentators are quick to bandy about words like ‘corruption’ when nothing more than impropriety or just poor judgment is being alleged. In all these cases, I imply no view.

Instead, I invite you to think about the process of what we might call adjudication. When it comes to investigating charges of impropriety, and reaching a judgment that can command widespread respect and be considered final, we British have got ourselves into a horrible tangle. We need to simplify. We should create structures and processes that — in the correct use of that term — can be accepted as disinterested, overseen by adjudicators whose authority and objectivity are unimpeachable. At present we flounder in a morass of variously external, internal, judicial, parliamentary and bureaucratic investigations, many of them leading to judgments that will immediately be dismissed as whitewashes or witch hunts by those who had wanted another outcome.

When it comes to investigating charges of impropriety, we have got ourselves into a horrible tangle

Take the Greensill affair.

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